Monday 30 November 2015

Meal Planning Monday - Week 49

Leftover beef from Sunday for me (had to defrost two pieces and the other half didn't like it) and a burger for him to cheer him up after a few things went wrong at the weekend!

fish and veg for me, gammon for him

At cake decorating course

butternut squash stew from freezer for me, sausage and mash for him

chicken kiev and chips

Saturday lunch: proper Welsh rarebit (must remember to buy crusty bread...)
Dinner: Thai green curry with monkfish for me and chicken for him, followed by sticky mango rice

Sunday lunch: bacon sandwich most likely
Dinner: roast chicken

Sunday 29 November 2015

Ferrari Formula 1 Race Car Birthday Cake

This is a great - and not actually that difficult - cake to make for anyone who likes race cars, Formula 1 and so on - whether that's your toddler nephew or your grandfather. I made this cake for my dad's 60th birthday as my sister and I were giving him a driving experience in various cars including a Ferrari around Thruxton racetrack so it seemed quite appropriate!

You can use any type of cake for this - it needs to be fairly robust so something like a dense chocolate cake or a madeira cake is good. Whatever you make, I recommend an 8 or 9 inch round cake.

If yours has risen like mine did, slice off some of the dome so the top is flat.

Slice the cake through the middle and fill, if desired.
Using a serrated knife, slice away the sides of the cake as shown, so you have a circle and then a long bit sticking out. You can draw a template on greaseproof paper and use that to cut around if you prefer. Keep the offcuts.

Add part of the offcuts to the end to lengthen the bonnet of the car and use another part cut at an angle to represent the driver's seat and the section behind it. It helps to look at pictures of Formula 1 cars, or if you have an expert in the house ask them - my fiancé was very helpful! Use buttercream to stick the sections of cake together.

Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of buttercream.
The next step is to cover the whole thing in fondant (roll-out icing). I used white, because I have a cake airbrushing kit and used that to spray the cake red, but if you don't have one then use red fondant. You can buy it in most supermarkets in the UK these days and don't need to go to a specialist cake shop.
Measure roughly how much fondant you need to go across the top and sides so you roll it out to the correct length and width, then cut off any excess. Smooth the fondant around the driver's seat.

Here's my cake airbrushing kit ready to go - it's very cool!

Always place your cake on newspaper or kitchen paper towels... it can get a bit messy!

I wanted to make the cake board look like the chequered flag and spent a little while thinking about the best way to do this. I decided the easiest thing was to completely cover a cake board in white fondant, and then cut out squares from some black fondant:

Use a little water or edible glue to attach each black square to the white board. You need to measure where each square goes - I did it by using a black square as a marker to show how much gap I needed to leave. Allow to dry.

I bought some edible icing printed pictures of the Ferrari badge - I wouldn't have the skill or the time to pipe or draw these by hand. They only cost a few pounds from Amazon.

I fixed them on with edible glue and used large balls of black fondant to make the tyres.

I made a flat, curved shape from black fondant which is the driver's seat; it looks more realistic when you see the whole cake.

There's also a wing section at the back that stands up and is used (I think) to make the car more aerodynamic. There is also one on the front but I had to get the cake into a carry case to take on the train and there was no room - it would have stuck off the edge of the cake board (as the car was at an angle on the board) and I wouldn't have been able to get the lid on. I did make the piece at the back, using cocktail sticks to secure it to the cake.

And here's the finished cake!

I'm sharing this with Formula 1 Foods, the blog challenge I have been running, in honour of the last Grand Prix race of the season.


Saturday 28 November 2015

Lamb Chop with Pomegranate Sauce

I was a little daunted when I came to look for a recipe from Abu Dhabi for the next round of Formula 1 Foods, but luckily happened across the website of Time Out Abu Dhabi which had a recipe feature. I really liked the idea of the sticky date cake with caramel sauce, but it sounded a bit too similar to the Christmas pudding I recently made, and didn’t think I could get hold of hammour (a type of fish I’d never heard of) and while there are almost certainly places in London that stock camel milk (since you can get pretty much anything here) I didn’t want to go on an Apprentice-style mission to track it down.
Instead, my eye was caught by a recipe for grilled lamb chops with pomegranate sauce, which sounded very nice – plus I had lamb in the freezer and a bottle of pomegranate syrup in the cupboard!

If you don’t have pomegranate syrup or molasses – though I’m pretty sure I bought it from Sainsburys rather than a specialist shop – the recipe does give instructions for how to make your own. But I skipped that stage and mixed the pomegranate syrup with the ketchup, honey, garlic and sugar – I left out the onion as such but used onion powder instead for a smoother sauce.
I brought the ingredients for the sauce to the boil, grilled the lamb and served the sauce over the top. It was delicious – if I did this again I think I’d finish the dish with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

I’m sharing this with Formula 1 Foods, the blog challenge I host based around the Grand Prix locations, as the next race is taking place in Abu Dhabi.


Friday 27 November 2015

Restaurant Review: Roosters Piri Piri, Epsom

Did you see the Martian? It’s a great film – one I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy, as my fiancé said it was based on a science fiction book he’d read and enjoyed but was quite technical – but it was really very good. Matt Damon is excellent and quite possibly in line for an Oscar nomination and the storyline – which at times often involves little more than ‘man trying to grow potatoes’ – is fascinating.
We were pretty busy the weekend it came out; in fact I’d been away in Wiltshire and Hampshire for the weekend, but we don’t really get time to go to the cinema during the week so when my fiancé picked me up from the train station on Sunday evening we spontaneously decided to see the film that evening.
There was no time to cook dinner at home and not really enough time for a restaurant – we prefer to go to the cinema in Epsom and by the time we got there had less than an hour before the film. We thought that dinner might have to be McDonald’s – which actually we would both quite enjoy, but it didn’t seem very inspired – until I spotted a place called Roosters Piri Piri.

It looked a bit like a Nando’s and indeed their main offerings are chicken burgers. But they have what they call a ‘uniquely British spin’ on their dishes, for instance offering sides like roast vegetables and mashed potato, not just fries.

We were in such a hurry that we didn't even read the whole menu and went for chicken burgers, but looking at the website it seems they have falafel, lamb, beef - all sorts. Like Nando's, there is a choice of seasoning, from lemon and herb to extra hot; I had lemon and herb and thought the chicken burger was very nice, but my fiancé wasn't impressed with the amount of fries and said he preferred the burger at Nando's. Still, it was a nice change and as we didn't have much time and service was fast, I think the best choice for the evening.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Two-Pastry Fish Pie

I was given a pack of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry and another of puff pastry to take home after attending an event recently and decided to use them - both of them - to make a pie. I've never used more than one type of pastry before but thought that the shortcrust would work well on the bottom, and the puff pastry on the top to make a lattice. So this is more of an idea than a recipe post, but it worked pretty well so I want to share.

Take an ovenproof dish - I used a small pyrex dish that was enough for two servings - and line the bottom with rolled out shortcrust pastry. Line with greaseproof paper (I forgot this part but it makes it much easier) then fill with ceramic baking beans, or uncooked rice, and bake blind in the oven for 15 mins.

Meanwhile I poached some smoked haddock in milk

I also had a packet of salmon flakes (cooked) which I bought as they were reduced in the supermarket, and I decided to throw these in as well.

When the base of the pastry is cooked, spoon in the fish. I used the poaching milk as a basis for a small quantity of a white sauce which I poured over the top. 

I've written before about my lattice pastry cutter; it's definitely easier to use with shop bought than homemade pastry! Roll out your pastry and roll the cutter over the top, then use your fingers to gently prise apart the lattice - you can see here I've done the top section but not the bottom section yet.

Place over the top of the pie and cut off any excess, then brush with milk or beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins until the pastry on top is risen and golden brown. I think the lattice effect makes the pie look nice and it reduces the amount of pastry you need on top so it's even a little healthier!

Wednesday 25 November 2015

F1 Foods Brazil Round-Up and the next challenge: Abu Dhabi

The most recent Formula 1 Grand Prix took place in Brazil, though perhaps it wasn't quite the right time of year for bloggers to be inspired by Brazilian food or cocktails - I have to admit, images that spring to mind involve sunshine and beaches and it's very cold here in the UK today! But there is plenty more to Brazilian cuisine than just that, as I found when I discovered this condensed milk cake or bolo de leite condensado. Unfortunately it took a lot longer to bake than the recipe suggested and I didn't like the texture - I wasn't sure if it wasn't quite cooked through or if it was just the mixture but I wasn't very keen on it. Next time I might stick to steak!

Suelle from Mainly Baking made this banana, chocolate and brazil nut loaf, though she says she thinks it has too much chocolate so the flavour combination doesn't really work. You can never have too much chocolate in my book!

The final Grand Prix of the season comes from Abu Dhabi - which I have to admit will involve a lot of Googling on my part to find a recipe, but I can think of a few Middle Eastern flavours which should work well. The race is this weekend so I'm opening the linkup now - an as it's the final round of the challenge, you can send in anything inspired by Formula 1, cars or racing overall as well as Abu Dhabi. You have until December 6 to get your entries in.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Pad Thai and Ozeri Wok Review

Often we go to my mother in law's on a Saturday night we have a takeaway from her favourite Thai place and we both always order the same thing - Pad Thai. I've never actually made one before but was given more confidence from doing a Thai cooking course recently, even though we made different dishes. And when I was sent a wok to review by Ozeri it seemed the perfect thing to cook.

I followed Felicity Cloake's recipe in the Guardian for the perfect Pad Thai though I wasn't as fussy about the type of noodles and used straight-to-wok ones. I found fish paste, tamarind paste and pam sugar in Sainsburys though I had to do without the dried shrimp; I didn't think it mattered as I was using prawns in the Pad Thai. I decided to leave out the Chinese chives as well as I had no idea what they were or where to get them (Chinatown, I imagine) but what was really annoying was that the shop I went to was all out of beansprouts.  I didn't want to put this meal off and make it another time as I had already done that twice so instead used some alfafa sprouts I had in the fridge and added some shredded carrot for a bit of crunch. I also left out the tofu as I don't like it. Other than all those things I followed the recipe!

 I was sure that the takeaway Pad Thai would taste a lot better due to some sort of MSG or highly calorific additive but was very pleasantly surprised to find that mine tasted just as good - even without the beansprouts!

The Ozeri Green Earth wok I used is one of my favourite pans now – it’s huge (12 inches) which means you can cook enough for the whole family – but it also works well for just one person as there is plenty of room to move the ingredients around, for instance when I added the egg and pushed the other things out of the way to let the egg scramble on the bottom of the pan for a few minutes.
But even though it’s big, it’s not as heavy as I was expecting, so is very easy to handle. The colour is great – the smooth ceramic coating coupled with the green base makes it look quite expensive somehow.
Ozeri pans use a ceramic coating that is PTFE- and PFOA-free, meaning that even at high temperatures it doesn’t release any harmful toxins, and is also scratch resistant and easy to clean. It’s non-stick and made cooking my Pad Thai a breeze.
Thanks to Ozeri for sending the wok to review. All opinions are my own.

Monday 23 November 2015

Meal Planning Monday Week 48

There were lots of changes to last week's meal plan as I had to work late on several nights so this week I will try and do a lot of the things I was going to do last week!

Thai meal I was going to make last Sunday but didn't

salmon and veg for me, chicken tikka portions for him or spaghetti Bolognese

out at a cake decorating class so will take a sandwich

sausage and mash

chicken pie

Lunch: soup and fresh bread
monkfish in lemon butter sauce for me, chicken for him

Lunch:  TBA, I know my fiancé will want a bacon sandwich if I give him the choice but I'm not that keen
Dinner: beef in red onion gravy from this recipe

Sunday 22 November 2015

Travel Reviews: Memphis, Tennessee, Part 1

Leaving Nashville, we drove the few hours to Memphis, where we were spending the next three days.
Harbor Town is a posh, quiet area just outside central Memphis only a few minutes from the Arkansas state line (which we crossed just so we could say we had been!). The houses around here are lovely and look quite expensive, and the town square has a few upmarket shops and a hairdresser.
The hotel is very nice (and not cheap) with pretty large rooms and friendly receptionists, who helped us when we realised we were supposed to have confirmed a sightseeing ticket but hadn’t. There’s a small downstairs lounge and the bar area is very small too, though the downstairs restaurant (Paulette’s, where we didn’t eat dinner but was used for breakfast) was nice. There’s a piano in the lounge and a pianist in the evenings, and they bring you a little decanter of port along with chocolates at night. The rooftop terrace restaurant is very good too.
Breakfast was delicious – there’s a menu with about four or five hot dishes to choose from so one day I had pancakes and sausage with syrup and the next French toast, then on the third day apple pancakes with bacon; I preferred the plain pancakes but they were still very good.
Miss Cordelia’s describes itself as a “progressive grocery experience” (say what now?) but also “a throwback to a time when a trip to the store didn’t mean aisles longer than football fields.” It caters perfectly to what I imagine the local clientele might be like based on the expensive homes in this area.

As well as a grocery shop there is a café with around 8 tables; people were buying lunch from the deli counter to take away (mainly sandwiches and salads), though as we were staying in the hotel a few doors down we had our lunch here. I had a roast beef, blue cheese and horseradish sandwich, which was good. They had a very large range of sandwiches, paninis and so on with funny names like “triple decker diet wrecker”. The cakes looked very yummy too!
This is a really important museum I would encourage everyone to visit. It traces the history of the whole civil rights movement in the US, from slavery to black power and beyond. I learnt a lot and it was extremely moving at times, but it is also really nicely done – different types of exhibits and enough things to keep your attention that it made the 3 hours or so we spent here seem to fly by.

The museum is actually located in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Junior was shot which adds a whole other dimension. You get to go into the room where he died and you can also go into the building across the street and stand at the window that the fatal shot was fired from. That building is also part of the museum which I wasn’t expecting so that definitely added something extra.
Our hotel had an open air terrace restaurant which overlooks the Mississippi river (though it’s not a great view as the road is in front of it) but it’s a lovely place to spend the evening. The cocktail list was amazing and the food good; the portions were fairly small compared to other places but that’s no bad thing as we were eating so much all the time!

I had catfish fritters from the Mississippi which came with a spicy remoulade dip, and a side of chips which of course turned out to be crisps which seemed a strange thing to have with the meal but never mind. My fiancé had sliders (mini burgers) and his mum who is veggie had houmous and bread and a side of fries. She had a trio of desserts which looked amazing – three small portions of chocolate mousse, key lime pie and strawberries and cream. Well, they didn’t just look amazing – she did let me taste them as well! My fiancé had a piece of cheesecake which he thought was very good and I felt slightly more virtuous by turning down dessert.

My MIL asked the bartender to make a non-alcoholic cocktail and gave him free rein; the one he came up with was lovely but best of all they gave her a free refill when we had our sodas refilled. You definitely wouldn’t get that in the UK! The meal was fairly expensive though – nearly 100 dollars for the three of us.
We arrived at 10.20 intending to do the 10.30 tour but didn’t realise it was quite a small place so they can’t cater for a lot of people on each tour. There is no time on your ticket so you don’t a specific tour and we found the 10.30 was already full. Normally there is only one tour an hour but luckily there were enough people so they had decided to put another one on at 11. There are a few things to look at while you wait and the entrance is actually a café but bring a book in case you are waiting an hour!

As the tour begins, you stand in a room with exhibits in glass cases while the guide talks about them, then you get time to look and take photos. Then you go down to the studio where he tells toy the rest of the history for instance about the Million Dollar Quartet – the famous photo of them is on the wall and this is the exact spot where it was taken, which is pretty cool. We heard about how people like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis came to record there and you can pose actually holding Elvis’ microphone in the spot where he sang. I would definitely recommend it.
I’m not particularly an Elvis fan (wrong era for me) but I was still really excited about going to Graceland. We went on a week day so it wasn’t too busy at all which was good – at the entrance/car park you queue to get on a shuttle bus and we found it quite uncomfortable to stand for the ten minutes or so it took in the blazing heat.

You are given iPads for the audio tour which you hang around your neck and plug headphones in to. I’ve never seen this at a museum before and it’s great – the ipad lets you zoom in and explore things you maybe can’t quite see in each room (as you generally get to stand in the entrance of each room rather than getting to go right in). Finally you get to visit the graves of Elvis and some of his family members.
Graceland was not as big or ‘bling’ as I expected, aside from the cars and planes. You have to pay extra to see the planes and we didn’t bother but the car collection is really cool. It’s a shame the famous pink Cadillac wasn’t there – ironically at the time it was in an exhibition in London (where we are from!).

We didn’t do the archive as it was 2pm and we were hungry. There is a grill restaurant, burger bar and ice cream parlour on site, and we went to the diner. It looked really cute decorated in 50s style with jukeboxes, though the food is definitely fast food – you order and pay at counter then wait for your food and take it on a tray to your table yourself. We each had a cheeseburger, fries and drink which came to 10 dollars each – the food was fine but nothing special. It was all part of the experience though. And make sure you check out the gift shops – there are several and all have slightly different things but on the whole they sell the same stuff. I bought an Elvis cookery book and spent quite a long time choosing the perfect keyring!