Thursday, 19 September 2013

Jambalaya - a taste of the deep south.

I often say that my mid-week meals, must be quick, tasty, filling and delicious. This jambalaya dish is all of those things but takes a little more time than my usual 30 minutes or so dishes, I managed to make this within an hour which I thought was quite good going.
I was inspired to make this dish for many reasons, to start cooking more from my many cookbooks for one, and after watching Man vs Food almost religiously, this hearty dish has been featured on many occasions. Also I have wanted to try and recreate foods from this region after reading novels based in the "Deep South" and how food centred around family life.
Jambalaya is a dish that originates all the way from Louisiana and  is inspired by French and Spanish influences, the dish is made of meat, vegetables and rice. It is quite similar to paella but with the added spices and flavour, this ranks above a paella in my opinion.
There are two ways to prepare jambalaya the creole way (which is similar to what I made) where the meat is added followed by trinity of creole vegetables (celery, peppers and onion),  seafood and rice. The second version the Cajun jambalaya, contains no tomatoes and the meats and vegetables are cooked separately and takes longer.
I can honestly say that jambalaya is probably one of the best meals I have had all year. I loved the combination of the smoky chorizo, pan fried pieces of chicken, king prawns and rice in each mouthful cooked in a delicious stock. Although the meal takes an hour, my frying pan done a lot of the work once the rice was added.
Here is how my (Creole) jambalaya turned out:


Jambalaya cooking.

Serves 6, but easily halved.
2tbsp vegetable oil
500g chicken breasts
250g chorizo, skinned and sliced
2 onions
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 scotch bonnet chili, carefully chopped
750ml chicken stock
500g long-grain rice
450g large cooked prawns
Cayenne pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the chicken and chorizo and brown for 5 minutes over a high heat. Reduce the heat and add the onions, garlic, green pepper and celery and saute for a further 10 minutes, until soft. Add the chili and the stock and stir in the rice. Cover and simmer very gently for 40 minutes.
Add the prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. Check the seasoning adding salt to taste.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Thorntons milk chocolate bundle, a review.

I love chocolate. Chocolate based recipes have featured in so many of my blog posts and Facebook page and I can not imagine a week to go by without having my dose of chocolate in some form of cake or bake. I must admit I much prefer to use chocolate in a cake rather than eat it as it is, but once in a while, I will have a blowout and get "chocolate wasted".
I recently tried Thorntons Milk Chocolate Block Bundle, Thorntons is one of the leading luxurious chocolate companies within the UK and have been around on our high streets for over 100 years. Their shops are found throughout the UK and include a wide selections of chocolates including: chocolate bundles (which I tried), chocolate hampers, boxed chocolates, personalised chocolates and even flowers.
The Milk Chocolate Bundle retails at £11 and contains 7 different chocolates, one for every day of the week and some of the chocolates are made with Madagascan coco, which having done some research contain some of the best coco beans in the world.
The Milk Chocolate Bundle contains:

  • Belgian Milk Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate Block with Fudge
  • Orange and Cardamom Chocolate Block
  • Special Toffee Milk Chocolate
  • Award-Winning Pistachio Chocolate
  • Hazelnut and Raisin Chocolate
  • Award-Winning Strawberry Chocolate.
Milk chocolate bundle
Thorntons Milk Chocolate Bundle.
I was unsure whether the chocolates would be suitable for baking as all but one of the chocolates have a flavour combination which I thought may contain pieces of chocolate or  pieces of the flavour combination (e.g nuts or strawberry pieces). As I thought, the chocolates in the Milk Chocolate Bundle were for eating and you could see pieces of the chocolate combination in-cooperated within each block, which I thought was impressive. All the chocolate weigh 70g, which I think is the prefect size for grazing and to eat by yourself without feeling too guilty.

I first tried the Award Winning strawberry chocolate, and I can see why it is an award winning chocolate; the chocolate was rich in flavour and the strawberry flavour really came through with every bite. I was really impressed with the large chunks of dried strawberries in-cooperated within the chocolate.
Strawberry chocolate.
Thorntons Strawberry chocolate

Lovely pieces of strawberry in-cooperated within the chocolate x

Next up for tasting was  the milk chocolate with hazelnut and raisin.  I loved how the pieces of hazelnuts and raisins were in-cooperated within this chocolate and there was a nice smooth hit of milk chocolate with the nuts. I found these really moreish and was my favourite chocolate block. 
Thorntons milk chocolate with hazelnut and raisin.

Thorntons milk chocolate with hazelnut and raisin.

Thorntons milk chocolate with hazelnut and raisin.

I shared the Milk Chocolate with Fudge with my cousin and we were both impressed with how delicious this was, we've never had fudge in-cooperated  in a bar of chocolate before.

I couldn't resist but to in cooperate the Belgian Milk Chocolate into a pudding or sweet treat, as it was the only chocolate within the bundle that didn't have a flavour combination. As the chocolates are luxurious I didn't want to waste the chocolate in a bake, I really wanted to taste the flavours, so thought I would make  pears with chocolate sauce.

Me and my family were really impressed with the rich taste of the Belgian milk chocolate and I must say although the chocolates are pricey (compared to supermarkets) I will definitely buy the Belgian Milk chocolate again, they were better than the Belgian milk chocolates that I brought in Belgium last year! 
Here is how my pear with chocolate sauce - using Thorntons Belgian Milk Chocolate turned out:
Pears with chocolate sauce, using Thorntons Belgian Milk Chocolate.
Pears with chocolate sauce, using Thorntons Belgian Milk Chocolate.
Overall, a delicious set of chocolates, perfect for a chocoholic like me and I would definitely consider this as my monthly treat.
In association with Thorntons.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fairy Cupcakes

One of the first things we learn to bake as a child are fairy cakes. I think of fairy cakes as a cupcakes little cousin, as it is very similar to cupcakes just smaller in size. I have kind have grown out of fairy cakes and much prefer the bigger cupcakes with their wide variety of flavour combinations. Sometimes, it is good to take a trip down memory lane and make something that I enjoyed whist growing up. These fairy cupcakes are just that, they are simple and delicious, and whilst I was reminiscing I thought I would decorate with children's sweets. Feel free to decorate as you chose. This lovely recipe comes from Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking which I have really enjoyed baking from this year.
Here is how my fairy cupcakes turned out:
Fairy cupcakes

Fairy Cupcakes

I first started by creaming the butter and sugar before adding the egg and flour.
Butter, sugar, flour and egg.

I then placed the mixture in cupcake cases and baked for around 20 minutes.
Fairy cake mixture

Fairy cupcakes pre bake
Once baked I made the vanilla buttercream and spread on each cupcake. I then decorated with fruit pastels and jelly babies.
Butter for buttercream

Icing added for buttercream.

Recipe for Fairy Cupcakes.
Ingredients - Makes 12
175g caster sugar
175g margarine, softened
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour

For the icing I stuck to my trusted vanilla buttercream recipe as I did not want to pair these cupcakes with royal icing.
For the buttercream
125 g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
420g icing sugar sifted.
Assorted sweets

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Cream the sugar and margarine together until pale, light and fluffy, either by hand or in a free standing mixer.
Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between each addition and adding a teaspoon of the flour to the mixture if it starts to curdle.
Add the flour and mix until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the mixture into the paper bun cases. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown and well risen.
Remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Buttercream
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, vanilla extract and half the icing sugar until smooth- this can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat again until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. I usually place the buttercream in the fridge for around 15 minutes as this makes it easier to spread the cupcakes.

I am entering my fairy cupcakes to Calendar Cakes, a monthly blogging challenge hosted by
 lauralovescakes and dollybakes. This month's theme is cupcakes as it is national cupcake week between  16th - 22nd September.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chorizo and mushroom pasta.

I love a good quick delicious pasta recipe, especially mid-week after a busy day at work. Although I love to cook and bake, mid week I'm always on the look out for meals that I can have on the table within 30 minutes. This pasta dish is exactly that, quick, easy, delicious and most importantly satisfying. I added a whole packet of mushrooms to this meal, simply to "bulk out" the pasta, and mushrooms often shrink whilst cooking. The chorizo adds a flavoursome meaty flavour to the pasta, and is chorizo is already cooked, there is little required apart from reheating with the mixture.
This recipe originally started out as a prawn and mushroom pasta, then I thought I would add the chorizo to add some flavour. However I discovered whilst taking out the ingredients for this meal that I did not have any prawns, so it simply became a chorizo and mushroom dish.
Here is how my chorizo and mushroom pasta turned out:

Chorizo and mushroom pasta.

Chorizo and mushroom pasta.

Recipe for Chorizo and Mushroom Pasta
Ingredients - serves 2
200g spaghetti pasta
350g mushrooms
75g chorizo
200g cream fraiche
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons of oil for frying.

Boil the kettle and place the boiled water in a pan and add the pasta - cook for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the skins from the mushrooms and slice. Add two tablespoons of oil and gently fry for around 5 minutes.
Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, slice the chorizo in chunks and add this to the mushrooms mixture.
Add the creme fraiche and allow this to cook for around 5 minutes on a medium heat.
Drain the pasta in a collander and add to the mixture - try to ensure the pasta absorbs the mushroom chorizo mixture for around 5 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.



Friday, 6 September 2013

Chocolate and rum syrup cup cakes with lime buttercream.

I love Caribbean food, it is one the staples foods which I grew up on and I have fond memories of trying and enjoying different foods, bakes and sweet treats that originated from sunny Caribbean islands. Starting a food blog has encouraged me to branch out and try new foods that I perhaps would never have cooked or baked, and have now become firm favourites. I do, however, want to share more of my favourite Caribbean foods, and not only foods but my own versions of Caribbean classics. Food that we were all raised on, evolves over time and we often put our own spin on a childhood favourite.

My recipe for chocolate and rum syrup cupcakes with lime buttercream, is based on some of my favourite Caribbean flavours and the recipe in part is an evolution of key Caribbean ingredients. Coco which is primarily cultivated in South America and Africa is also cultivated in one of the medium sized Caribbean islands, Trinidad and played a key part in the socio economic development of this country in 1850-1920. The Caribbean is famously associated with rum, from the 60% proof found in Jamaica to the lovely dark rum found in Dominican Republic it's hard not to think of the Caribbean without thinking rum, so this was a must have as part of my recipe development. Finally, limes are also cultivated throughout the Caribbean and is often used as a marinade for dishes.

I thought it was important for my first recipe development to in cooperate all three Caribbean ingredients and pay homage to my Caribbean roots. My chocolate and rum syrup cupcakes with lime buttercream are for those who like a grown up style of cupcake, and for people who enjoy alcohol in their desserts. In cooperating the rum into the syrup makes it much more palatable and if Jamaican rum is too strong you can substitute white rum for a coconut based rum, the flavours should come through, although it may be a little sweeter.

Anyway, enough rambiling, here is how my chocolate and rum syrup cupcakes with lime buttercream turned out:
Chocolate and rum syrup cupcakes with lime buttercream. 

Selection of cupcakes

I first started by creaming the butter and sugar together before adding the flour and egg to the mixture.
Butter and sugar creamed.

Flour and egg added.
I added a splash of milk before adding cocoa to the mixture.
Splash of milk added

Once I added the coco, I placed the mixture in cupcake cases and left to bake for 20 minutes.
Coco added

Cupcakes baked

Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, prick the cupcakes with a skewer and then get on with the rum syrup. Once the sugar and water dissolved take this off the heat and add the rum.
Cupcakes pricked.
Rum syrup added.

Add the rum syrup to the cupcake and leave to soak in the syrup for 15 minutes. Make the buttercream and spread over the cupcakes.
Lime buttercream

For 12 cupcakes

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
175g self – raising flour
3 eggs
30g coco.
1 teaspoon of baking powder.
A splash of milk (around 15ml)

For the rum syrup 
150g granulated sugar
100ml water
25ml white rum, preferably Jamaican rum

For the lime buttercream
150g butter, softened
475g icing sugar
juice of 2 limes.

To make the cupcakes

 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.
Cream the butter and sugar together using a hand held mixer for around 5 minutes or until the butter and sugar becomes light and fluffy.
In batches, add the self- raising flour, the tea spoon of baking powder with one egg at a time to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well until everything is blended.
Once the flour and eggs have been blended, add the coco to the mixture and mix well. Add the milk to loosen the mixture. Divide the mixture in 12 muffin cases – I like to add a tablespoon at a time to each case so that the cupcakes are fairly even in size and appearance.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes or until risen, golden brown.  If you have one, test with a metal skewer to make sure the cupcakes are cooked and no mixture is on the skewer.

Place the cupcakes aside and leave to cool whilst you get on with the rum syrup.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, if the sides of the pan begin to stick, dip a pastry brush in water and dip in the pan where the sugar has burnt. It is important that no stirring happens in this stage, but swirling is ok. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the fire of the heat and add the rum to the syrup.
Pour  two  tablespoons of the rum syrup over each cupcake  Let the cupcakes soak in their boozy bath for 15 minutes as this makes it easier to spread the lime buttercream.

Place the butter and lime juice in a mixing bowl and add the icing sugar in patches, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the icing sugar is in-cooperated.
Once the butter and sugar is mixed well, place the icing in the fridge for 30 minutes as this makes the buttercream easier to pipe. After 30 minutes remove the buttercream from the fridge and place in a large icing bag using a 1M nozzle tip in order to achieve swirls. If not using a piping bag, spread the buttercream on each cupcake using a pallete knife.

I am entering these lovely cupcakes to Calendar Cakes a monthly baking challenge hosted by lauralovescakes and dollybakes. This month's theme is cupcakes as it is national cupcake week between  16th - 22nd September.

Enjoy and I look forward to sharing more of my recipes with you

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