Tuesday 31 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Kipferl, Islington

There’s a little street in Islington called Camden Passage which has lots of lovely little cafes and shops, and sometimes a market selling everything from antiques to jewellery. I spent a work day with an agency we use not far from there and my colleague and I decided to go out for a quick lunch somewhere a bit different to what’s on offer near our usual base in the City. He spotted Kipferl, a Viennese café, and as we have both been to Vienna we were keen to try it.
Kipferl started out as a delicatessen, run by Austrian Christian Malnig, and has expanded to two full cafes (the other one in Kensington). It prides itself on being a proper Viennese coffeehouse, where you can sit with a coffee and read the newspaper for hours without being hassled to buy anything else. The man at the next table was working on his laptop (and eating lunch) but I overheard him say he pretty much rented that table to work at!
As well as proper Austrian cakes like Sachertorte there are both small and large dishes suitable for lunch and dinner (they also do breakfast). I was tempted by a Wienerschnitzel but decided I wanted a smaller dish at lunch, though still something Austrian. I chose the sausage and sauerkraut, which offered a choice of sausages – a pair of Wieners or Debreziners, or one cheese-stuffed Kaesekrainer, which sounded delicious – and it was. The sauerkraut was perfect – probably an acquired taste but having lived in Germany in my teens and 20s I love the taste of the pickled cabbage. It also came with some rye bread, which unfortunately I found very dry (I know it’s supposed to be but I’ve had much better), plus little pots of mustard and freshly grated horseradish, and some pickles. I’ve never had fresh horseradish, though I love horseradish sauce; on it’s own it is a bit strange and I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do with it – sprinkle it on the sausage, or eat it by itself?
My colleague had a similar dish but with the two Wiener sausages and salad instead of sauerkraut; they were each priced around £6-£7 and made a pretty filling lunch.
If you’re looking for something a bit different to the usual sandwich and want a friendly, relaxed café where you can while away the afternoon (though in our case we went straight back to work) then you could do far wurst.

Monday 30 March 2015

Meal Planning 2015 - Week 14

It's a busy week this week and Easter as well! Are you all looking forward to some Easter cooking and baking? Here's my meal plan for the week:

Monday lunch: early lunch at home as I have a dentist appointment
Dinner: out with my boyfriend's cousin and sister-in-law for a girl's night

Dinner: out for my boyfriend's birthday which is the following day

Wednesday: my boyfriend wants to invite his parents to our house for a takeaway for his birthday

Thursday: Finally a day at home to cook! I'll have fish and vegetables and do gammon for my boyfriend

Good Friday - bank holiday
Lunch: bacon/sausage sandwich
Dinner: Maggi So Juicy Mexican chicken with homemade potato wedges

Lunch: inviting my boyfriend's extended family round for his birthday
Dinner: leftovers from lunch?

Easter Sunday
Lunch: home made hot cross buns
Dinner: Ginger ale can chicken from this recipe

Sunday 29 March 2015

Meat-Free Meals: Quorn Review and a recipe

Have you tried Quorn before? I've eaten their burgers and sausages many times - I'm not vegetarian, but they are much lower in fat and calories (and Slimming World syns!) than the meat versions. Sometimes you just can't beat a beefburger... but as I am watching my weight I often choose Quorn instead, and do really enjoy them. I didn't realise though that Quorn had so many products in its range until I was sent a few vouchers to try them.

Quorn products are made from Mycoprotein which is basically a fungus (like mushroom) with added minerals and so on - though it tastes nothing like mushroom. It is low in saturated fat and high in fibre, and has a similar texture and appearance to meat, and the taste is not that different either - perfect for people who don't want a beanburger but something actually resembling a hamburger, for instance.

The Quorn website is really interesting- as well as information about how it is made and the full range of their products, there are recipes and even a restaurant finder where you can put in your postcode and find restaurants which serve Quorn products. I didn't even realise that any did, but there were dozens around where I live, including Wetherspoons, Beefeater, Slug & Lettice, Pizza GoGo and more.

I could choose whichever products I wanted with the voucher and as I've had the burgers and sausages before I wanted something different. I thought a good taste test would be to compare one of their products to the meat version - since I am not a vegetarian, I choose Quorn for health reasons but it also has to taste good!

So I bought the Quorn lasagne - £3 for a 500g pack - and compared that to a beef lasagne I bought for my boyfriend. First of all it was good value for money - obviously beef is more expensive -but the nutritional information on the front was eye-opening when compared to the beef lasagne, though it did have more salt if you eat the whole pack (to be honest this would only serve two with a lot of veg or garlic bread on the side). You also get a lot longer on the best before date than with the beef lasagne.

Other leading supermarket's lasagne
Quorn lasagne

I like lasagnes that have a lot of cheese sauce rather than being too dry, and this one was perfect. I actually forgot I wasn't eating meat, it tasted that good, and with some veg on the side it made for a very filling meal, and is definitely something I would choose again. You can also buy Quorn mince to make your own lasagne, or spaghetti Bolognese following the recipe here.

Quorn lasagne. Mmm, cheese....
The second Quorn product that I tried was the meat-free bacon rashers. I know a few vegetarians who say the thing they miss most is bacon - and I also know one vegetarian who doesn't eat meat apart from bacon! I've never been a huge fan of bacon but as it does seem to be one of the things that vegetarians miss out on, I thought I'd see what this alternative tasted like.

The texture is completely different to bacon - it reminded me more of thin slices of Spam, or the turkey bacon I've eaten before. Like the turkey bacon, there is no fat in this so nothing to crisp up when you cook it, but it is incredibly low in fat and calories.

The flavour did remind me of bacon, but it clearly wasn't bacon - so if you're vegetarian try it and see what you think - it can't replace bacon entirely but then nothing can! I used these in a recipe for baked eggs - look out for this on the blog later - and it worked really well, but the rashers I ate on their own weren't quite as good as the texture was unfamiliar. But I think if you are vegetarian and really miss bacon, you should give these a go!

Finally I tried the 'roast chicken' sliced fillets. On their own they had a similar taste and texture to chicken and weren't bad. These are already cooked (unlike the bacon) so can be eaten straight from the packet for a healthy snack.

You can also cook with them and I decided to use the 'chicken' strips to make a variation on burritos. I had some leftover rice which I put into a small pan with the chicken, some chopped red pepper, a dash of water to stop it sticking and then as an afterthought some sweet chilli sauce and heated it through.

I used this to fill a flour tortilla which I then wrapped up; it was delicious!

Now I know that there are so many Quorn products in the range I won't just be sticking to the burgers or sausages, when I want a low fat alternative to meat.

Thanks to Quorn for sending me the vouchers.  I was not required to write a positive review. All comments are my own.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Irish Soda Bread with Garlic - Quick-Bake Loaf (No Proving)

This month's Food 'n' Flix challenge is the John Wayne film The Quiet Man, chosen by Joanne at What's On The List. I'd never heard of it, and since it starred John Wayne I assumed it was a Western so started mulling over some cowboy-themed dishes I could make for the challenge. I couldn't have been more wrong - the film is actually a love story set in 1920s Ireland!

The film is about an Irish-American called Sean (Wayne) going back to his birthplace to take over a farm he has inherited, where he falls in love with a woman called Mary Kate. Her brother Red won't give permission for them to start courting so they trick him into believing another woman is in love with Red but wants Mary Kate to move out of his house. Red agrees, but founds out he was duped on Sean and Mary Kate's wedding day and refuses to hand over her dowry.

As Sean refuses to stand up to Red and demand what Mary Kate is entitled to, it causes problems between them and eventually she tries to leave him, until Sean drags her back and they go to see Red, who is shamed into handing over the dowry. Sean and Mary Kate then burn the money, showing it was the principle they cared about, not the cash. Sean and Red then fight and at the end, the rift is healed and Mary Kate heads home to make dinner for her husband.

To be honest I didn't really like this film, and was surprised that not only did it win the Best Director Oscar at the time (1952) but according to Wikipedia, in 2013 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". While there were still themes in this movie that people can identify with today, I had a problem with the way that Mary Kate was treated. I understand the tradition of dowry, and needing your father or brother (who in this case is her only male relative)'s permission to marry as that was the case at the time. However, the scene when Mary Kate is forced to walk back to the village with Sean is horrible - he literally drags her across the ground at one point, and one of the other villagers cheerfully offers him a stick to beat her with! Apparently this is a comedy but fashions and tastes change and unfortunately this film really didn't do anything for me.

I wanted an Irish recipe for the Food n Flix challenge and came across this recipe for Wild Garlic Irish Soda Bread. I couldn't get any wild garlic so I decided to crush a few garlic cloves and add to the mixture, which worked really well!

The best thing is this loaf is really quick - it contains no yeast so you don't need to leave it to prove and just mix the ingredients and put it in the oven. It tasted delicious with a bowl of soup!

Adding the buttermilk to the other ingredients

Ready to go in the oven

The baked loaf
Sliced and ready to eat

 I'm sharing this with Food 'n' Flix as mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Friday 27 March 2015

Malaysian Pineapple Cookies

This weekend's Formula 1 Grand Prix is taking place in Malaysia. I thought about making a savoury dish for my challenge Formula 1 Foods - when I went to Kuala Lumpur in 2013 I had a nice chicken and noodle dish. But I wanted to find something sweet, so turned to the internet and came across a website called Rasa Malaysia, with a recipe for  the best ever pineapple cookies. Mine did turn out rather different to the picture though!

For one thing, this recipe gives quantities to make 100, which sounded at least five times more than I wanted! It was difficult to divide the recipe that much though (eg it uses two egg yolks) and I also got a bit confused by the quantity of pineapple needed; two whole pineapples should be 3.5kg, meaning one is 1,750 grams - but after I sliced up one whole pineapple I only had about 800g. But in the end I had a lot of pineapple left over!

I halved the quantity of the dough but found it really didn't go far. My pineapple was still quite moist and not a sticky ball like in the picture, so I needed quite a lot of cookie dough to go around it. So I ended up with about a dozen large cookies when according to the recipe I should have had about 50!

I also found it quite hard to get the pineapple to stay inside as it was so moist and I ended up making a few cookies thumbprint style with the pineapple on top, which worked quite well.

The cookie dough wasn't particularly sweet and had quite a milky flavour, from the condensed milk; it went well with the sweet yet sharp pineapple in the middle but I'm afraid to say I'd rather have a chocolate chip cookie any day! Still, this was an interesting experiment - I enjoy making dishes from different cultures. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who has made this recipe or eaten Malaysian pineapple cookies before!

I'm entering this into Formula 1 Foods, the blog challenge I host related to the Grand Prix races as this weekend it is taking place in Malaysia.

I'm also sharing this with Tea Time Treats, hosted by Janie at the Hedgecombers and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, as their theme this month is biscuits and cookies.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Drake Manor Inn, Buckland Monachorum, Devon

Several years ago one of my closest friends moved to a tiny village in Devon - and I mean tiny. it doesn't have a single shop, but what it does have is a pub.

The Drake Manor Inn is the centre of the community; my friend worked there for a while and even got to know her husband there. 'The pub' as everyone calls it (it almost doesn't need a name) hosts the village New Year's Eve party, serves as the venue for community meetings (like the local cider makers club) , sells pints of milk as there is nowhere else nearby to get one if you've run out and even offers accommodation ( one room above the pub).

An English folk singer who I won't name as I don't think he'd appreciate it grew up there and his parents still live there, and he has been known to give impromptu performances in the pub.

I'd been to the pub a few times when visiting my friend and remembered the very low ceilings and the outdoor toilet (men's - thankfully the ladies is inside) but had never eaten there. This time I was visiting my friend and her new baby during the day so said I would treat us to lunch and she suggested the pub. I later found out that was the fourth time that week she had eaten lunch there!

I was impressed by the breadth of the menu and the sound of dishes like chicken with a spice rub; not as run of the mill as I had expected. In fact the pub prides itself on its food. I was going to have a baguette or the plough mans until my friend recommended the vegetarian lasagne - butternut squash, spinach and goats cheese. It came in a round dish piping hot from the oven on a plate with salad and garlic bread. The lasagne - homemade of course - was delicious. My friend had the same thing while my boyfriend, the world's most un adventurous eater, had a cheese burger. He had been expecting something snack sized as it was under the 'pub bites' section of the menu and only cost about £6 or £7, whereas the main meals part of the menu had a more expensive pulled pork burger. But his meal was huge!

The meal for three plus soft drinks came to £32- excellent value for money as we weren't even hungry by dinner time (though my mum, who we then went on to visit, cooked us dinner anyway).

If you remember to duck when you stand up, and can find somewhere to park, this is a great place to stop for lunch or go for a drink - it's the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else, but rather than strangers being eyed with suspicion, they are greeted, asked where they are from and drawn into the conversation. And you may be surprised at who you end up talking to - what were the chances that the man at the bar (who my friend knew as Geoff from down the road) was the now-retired West Country correspondent for - my former employer, the Daily Telegraph?

Wednesday 25 March 2015

How to Make Edible Glue for Cake Decorating

Edible glue is an essential tool for any cake decorator. It's what you use to stick sugar flowers onto cakes; to fix arms and legs onto sugarpaste animals and to stick any sort of decorations onto fondant-covered cakes.

You can buy edible glue in little pots which can cost anywhere between £2-£3, or sometimes you can get them for £1 from a show like Cake International, which is coming up at the end of this month. I quite like this one from Culpitt, a reputable brand, which you can buy from Amazon from £2.05.

A little does go a fairly long way and the little pots usually come with a brush in the lid which is handy, but after a while they will dry up, and if you are doing a lot of cake decorating, it can get expensive.

So did you know that you can actually make your own edible glue very easily? Simply mix one part CMC powder to 20 parts water and that's it. You can get 100g of CMC powder for about £5 and that will last you a very long time - and you can also use the powder to make Mexican paste to use for modelling (explained if you click on the link).

It's best not to use the glue right away - you can if you need to, but it is quite runny, and benefits from a few hours to set a little. You can keep it in the fridge for quite a while; use a paintbrush or fine makeup brush to dip in to the glue and apply. It's as simple as that!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Formula 1 Foods: Australia round-up and the next challenge

I didn't watch the Australian Grand Prix because it was Mother's Day - and really I would only have watched it if I was at home with my boyfriend! But I did make these Australian lamingtons in honour of the race and my new blog challenge a few days before. Considering I don't really like coconut, they were surprisingly good!

The first challenge wasn't particularly well advertised (I'll try to do better this time!) so there was only one other entry, which came from Suelle at Mainly Baking. Her chocolate macadamia slice looks delicious - I didn't know that macadamia nuts are only produced in Australia, so it's perfect for this challenge!

March 28/29 sees the Grand Prix move to Malaysia so I look forward to seeing your recipes, whether they are sweet or savoury. The link-up will be open for about a week either side of the event which should be plenty of time to send in your recipes. Scroll down for the linky tool.

The rules are simple:
You can use old posts if you add the badge; please add your entries to the link-up; tweet them to @Caroline_Makes and I will retweet all the ones I see. The deadline for each mini-challenge will be roughly a week long, depending on the date of the race and when the next one is. And that's about it!
The first challenge was: Australia 
The second challenge is: Malaysia

Link up your entries here!

Monday 23 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 - Week 13

Monday: possibly home late; ready-made lasagne or frozen pizza

Lunch: won't have long as I am going to a local school where I volunteer as a reading partner but I do want something hot so will take a ready meal
Dinner: at cake decorating class so will take a sandwich

Out for lunch today
Dinner: chicken fajitas

Out for lunch today
Dinner: white fish and parsley sauce with mashed potato for me, sausage and mash for him

Friday: burger and chips (I've got a vegetarian mozzarella burger I bought from Ocado that I want to try)

Saturday lunch: soup with Irish soda bread from this recipe
Dinner: salmon/chicken traybake; dessert: mini lemon trifles with limoncello

Sunday lunch: Cuban sandwich from this recipe
Dinner:  a variation on the Fabulous Baker Brothers' Tory Cobbler

Sunday 22 March 2015

Easy Slow Cooker Spicy Pulled Pork

Pulled pork in a bread roll is one of my boyfriend's favourites. I've made it before but there are many different recipes; last time I made a spice rub which I rubbed over the pork, and made a liquid broth that it sat in inside the slow cooker; at the end you can reduce the sauce in a saucepan to serve with the pork.

There is also this much quicker recipe which cooks the pork dry. It comes from The Slow Cooker recipe book and is a recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork.

To serve 4 generously, you need:
2 onions
approx. 1.5kg boned and rolled pork shoulder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. mustard, American or Dijon or similar
2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
1 tbsp. cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
salt, pepper
bread rolls and lettuce to serve

The recipe says you should slice the onions but you will actually be resting your pork shoulder on top of them; without a liquid the pork would otherwise stick to the bottom of the slow cooker. So instead I recommend slicing the onions in half, and slicing off the root so they sit flat and then resting the pork on top.

Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and spoon the sauce over the pork, getting it right inside the folds.

Put your slow cooker onto slow for 6 hours or your closest setting and that's it!

It was lovely coming home to the pork already cooked; all I had to do was carefully lift it from the pan and shred it, and fill the bread rolls. OK and cook some chips as well!

I'm sending this to the Slow Cooked Challenge, hosted by Janice at Farmersgirl kitchen, as her theme this month is spicy.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Chunky Peanut Brittle

My mum really likes peanuts and I decided to make her some edible gifts for Mother's Day recently, so thought that peanut brittle would be fun to try. It looked very easy to make and the recipe is indeed very simple, but as I discovered quite easy to get wrong!

I used this recipe thinking it was by Nigella Lawson, but realised afterwards it was posted in the community section of her website.

All you need is 100g peanuts and 100g caster sugar. Heat the sugar in a small pan over a low heat until it is caramel coloured. I learnt that it can turn very quickly and start to burn so you do need to keep an eye on it!

The recipe I used said to add the peanuts, then pour onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. But as soon as I added the peanuts to the hot sugar in the pan, they clumped together and set almost straight away. Peanut brittle is supposed to be flat, thin and - well, brittle - and by the time I was able to get it onto my baking parchment it was already in big clumps. So what I would recommend trying is spreading out your peanuts on the baking tray lined with parchment and then pouring the sugar over the top.

Mine set very quickly - it didn't even need to go in the fridge - and I broke it up into pieces and put it in a little box. I thought it tasted quite nice even if it didn't look quite right!

Regular readers may have noticed that I like to make foods inspired by fiction, whether that's movies or books. This recipe fits in with a blog challenge called Novel Food, hosted by Simona at Pulchetta.com. I read a lovely book recently by Jenny Colgan called Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, about a woman who moves to a small village to look after her elderly aunt, who runs the local sweetshop. She ends up learning a lot about her aunt, and herself - and sweets! Each chapter of the book begins with either a recipe or a passage from her aunt's notebook about a particular type of sweet and there is one chapter which begins with a passage on peanut brittle. So that was also partly what inspired me to make this recipe, and for that reason I'm sharing this post with Simona for her challenge.

I'm also sending this to Treat Petite, as their theme this month is mums and I made this for my mum! The challenge is hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat aka The Baking Explorer.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Il Ponte, Epsom

Il Ponte doesn’t look like the most upmarket restaurant -  I’m always a little dubious about restaurants that fill their website with giant pictures of their food (I prefer the subtle approach). But when we wanted to go to the cinema in Epsom and I fancied Italian for a change - and we needed somewhere a short walk from the cinema - this seemed the best choice.
Service was a little slow (and they weren’t busy at all so couldn’t give that as an excuse) but we had allowed plenty of time before the film. We shared a bread basket as the starter which came with oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping which I really like. My boyfriend had a margherita pizza which he said was pretty good and comparable to Pizza Express (which is praise but not high praise, essentially).

 I was pleased to see they had quite an extensive menu and even a list of daily specials; I was in the mood for fish or pasta and was able to combine both in the salmon steak topped with smoked salmon and prawns, served with linguine in a lemon and butter sauce (£13.95).

 The salmon was beautifully cooked, with a generous amount of tiny prawns but the smoked salmon on top in my opinion didn’t work. I was expecting a piece of raw smoked salmon, perhaps wrapped into a roll with an artfully placed piece of dill on top. Instead, the smoked salmon was stretched the length of the salmon and cooked in the oven, meaning it went hard. It was only half way through the meal I realised what this was – I had thought they had overcooked the top of the salmon. I ended up taking the smoked salmon off the top and not eating it. The pasta and sauce was good – a subtle flavour that went well with the salmon, and I also had a side order of broccoli to go with it.

The portion of pasta was quite small and fish isn’t particularly filling so despite having had the bread to start, I was still hungry for dessert. There was a good selection of traditional Italian desserts and the usual pudding suspects. My boyfriend had the chocolate fudge cake which was a large slice, very fluffy with a hot chocolate sauce. My pecan pie on the other hand was disappointing. In my opinion pecan pie should be hot or at least room temperature but this was fridge-cold, which spoiled the texture somewhat.

Overall though we had a good meal here; I am definitely keen to try the burger place next time we go for dinner in Epsom but I would happily eat here again.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Salmon with Linguine and Leek Pesto

I was looking for a springtime pasta recipe and came across this recipe for salmon with linguine and ramp pesto. I'd never heard of ramp but according to Wikipedia the allium tricoccum is known as many things, including ramp, spring onion and wild leek. I don't think it's actually the American word for spring onion though as that's scallion. I had some leeks in my fridge and decided that would be close enough and I would give it a go!

I didn't have Asiago cheese (whatever that is) but did have parmesan in my fridge, and a packet of sliced almonds that needed using up. So I decided to throw the whole lot together and make my own springtime pasta!

To serve 3-4, you need:
1 leek, sliced
2 tbsp. oil
30g grated parmesan
30g flaked almonds
handful of fresh parsley
approx. 4-6 tbsp. oil
to serve: linguine
salmon fillet

Cook the pasta according to pack instructions and cook the salmon fillet in whichever manner you prefer - pan fry, poach, oven roast or even microwave. This is really just the recipe for the pesto...

Slice the leek and add to a large pan with 2 tbsp. oil. Heat until the leeks are softened but not browned.

Transfer to a food processor along with the parmesan, almonds and parsley, and pulse for a few seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the oil until it reaches your preferred consistency.

Toss through the cooked pasta and top with the salmon. Enjoy!

This had a different flavour (obviously) to pesto I'd had before but thanks to the parmesan and nuts it was still definitely a pesto, and I really enjoyed it.

I'm sending this to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted this month by Jo's Kitchen on behalf of Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All. Parmesan isn't cheap but I'm sure a lot of people like me have half a packet hanging around to be used up, and as this recipe only used things I already had open in my fridge, hopefully it counts!

This recipe is a good way to sneak in some veg so I am sending this to the Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. The challenge was started by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Leeks are in season so I am sending this to Simple and In Season, hosted by Ren Behan.

The recipe uses fresh parsley so I am sending it to Cooking with Herbs, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage.

Finally I am sending this to Pasta Please, hosted by Family Friends Food on behalf of Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes as the challenge this month is for springtime pasta recipes.