Thursday, 30 January 2014

Apple Crumble - My blueprint recipe from How to Eat

I don't think I've made a crumble from scratch since starting my blog but I have certainly eaten several hearty portions of apple and blackberry crumble when visiting my family. I find a homemade crumble at the end of a meal, a universal appeal: children and adults all seem to love the combination of soft warmed fruits topped with a crumble mixture. I always remember eating crumbles with a generous serving of custard at school, I would be delighted when this pudding appeared on the menu. I wanted to recreate that nostalgic memory of me eating apple crumble with a good dollop of custard and  scoured through my cookbooks to find an easy and yet simple recipe for this pudding. Nigella's How to Eat, which is often referred to as her best cook book, provided a simple and easy recipe for a variety of crumbles. I did not measure how many litres (or grams)  my heart shaped oven dish holds and ended up making more crumble to go on top of the fruit. This recipe is super easy and what's most impressive is the flavours of the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg makes the topping utterly delicious and the flavours of these spices positively lingered on my taste buds after I consumed my portion.
Here is how my apple crumble turned out:
Apple crumble
As you can see there was not a left when I managed to take this picture, which proves how delicious this pudding was.

Apple crumble
I first started by cooking the fruit with butter in a pan.
Butter in pan

I then placed the cooked apples in a oven proof dish and made the crumble.
Apples in oven proof dish.

Crumble added to the apples

More crumble needed.

Recipe for apple crumble, feeds 4-6 using a 1 litre pan.
750g apples
a tsp ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
120 self-raising flour
90g butter, cold and dices into about 1 cm
3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
3-4 tbsp caste sugar

Peel, core and segment the apples and toss them for a minute or so in a pan, on the heat with 1 tbsp of the brown sugar and 3-4 tablespoons caster sugar (to taste) and a good squeeze of orange juice, before transferring to a pie dish and topping with the crumble. To make the crumble, put the flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the cold cubes of butter and, using the tips of your fingers - index and  stroking the fleshy pads of your thumbs rub into the flour. Stop when you have a mixture that resembles porridge oats. Stir in the sugar.
Keep the mixture in the fridge until you need it. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and when ready to cook sprinkle the crumble over the prepared fruit in the pie dish and cook for 25-35 minutes.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Ackee and bacon tart

Growing up in a Caribbean family, I was introduced to a range of exotic ingredients and flavours in cold and rainy Blighty. I suppose when you are young the food that you eat is the only food you know and it becomes the food you grow to love.  Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica, and was a regular dish in my home. You may ask what is Ackee? Well it is a fruit that is cultivated in the Caribbean and Africa, but is commonly used in savoury cuisine. I also have tried other accompaniments to ackee, such as ackee and cabbage and ackee and bacon.  Throughout my teen years, I discovered quiches, tarts and flans and instantly fell in love. My ackee and bacon tart recipe combines a staple Caribbean ingredient, ackees with a favourite European bake, the tart. The ackees add a very distinctive, creamy flavour but not is overwhelming or overpowering in this tart. Ackees are widely available from all large supermarkets, so there is no excuse not to give this dish a try.   I served this tart for my evening meal, but it can also be served for breakfast, after all ackee (and salt fish) is the traditional breakfast dish in Jamaica. 
Here is how my ackee and bacon tart turned out:
Ackee and Bacon tart.

I served a slice of my ackee and bacon tart with avacodo and wedges.
Ackee and Bacon tart with chips.

This tart is super simple to make, especially if you use ready rolled shortcrust pastry.

Cook the red onion, and grill the bacon, then mix the eggs, mixed herbs, black pepper and creme fraiche.
Eggs, herbs and creme fraiche

Cheese added

Drain the ackee and add the bacon to the pastry, followed by the red onion.

Ackee added to the tart.

Onions added

Add the creme fraiche/egg mixture
Filling added to the tart.
Ackee and Bacon tart
Prep time 30-40 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes
Number of servings 6

Ingredients and quantities for the pastry - you will need a rectangular tart tin.

For the shortcrust

250 g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out.125 g unsalted butter, chilled and diceda pinch of salt1 large egg yolk2-3 tbsp water, chilled.

For the filling.

pinch of salt

2 red onions
3 rashers of bacon
300g creme fraiche
3 eggs, lightly beaten
teaspoon mixed herbs
black pepper
1 tin of Jamaica Prides Ackee (available from larger Asda stores).
50g medium cheddar cheese.


 Rub the butter and flour together in a bowl until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and a pinch of salt and stir together with a spoon until the egg is in-cooperated with the flour. Rub the mixture into a ball and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.  After 30 minutes remove the pastry mixture from the fridge and preheat the oven to gas mark 5. Leave the pastry  at room temperature for 5 minutes and then roll out in a rectangular shape on a floured surface. Place the pastry in the tart tin and place baking sheet and baking beans on top of the tart. Blind bake the pastry for 20 minutes. Meanwhile the pastry is baking, make the filling. Boil the kettle, slice the onions and place in a pan, add the boiling water to the pan and cook over a medium heat for around 7 minutes: the purpose is to blanch the onions to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked when placed in the tart. Grill three rashers of bacon in  a grill for 8 minutes, turn over half way through and tear into small pieces when cool. Place the eggs, mixed herbs, black pepper and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl and whisk. Grate the cheese and transfer half of the cheese to the egg and creme fraiche mixture. Open the tin of ackee, drain the water from the ackee and set aside. Once the pastry is blind baked, remove from the oven, add the bacon pieces to the tart, followed by the ackee and pour over the egg and creme fraiche mixture. Finally, sprinkle the remanding cheese on top of the tart. Place in the oven and bake for around 40 minutes or until the filling no longer wobbles.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Enjoy xx 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Winter Cocktails review and giveaway.

Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers and Cocktail Party Snacks published by Quirk books is an enchanting book from the onset.  The authors, Maria Del Mar Sacasa (how exotic is that name?) and Tara Striano are both experienced food writers, stylists and photographers and  their work has graced the pages of Vogue, Elle and The Oprah magazine.
 Now, I love cook/baking books and I have almost 100, but this book, dedicated to the drinks will become a firm favourite within my household. Let me explain, the book is beautifully illustrated, there are many pictures of warm winter drinks, many which I have not heard of before which makes me want to widen my palette with the drinks that are available to make.

There is a very informative introduction on essentials, fridge basics, serve ware, glassware, ice molds, muddling, flavoured rims, caramel, opening champagne, citrus garnishes and granita: after a good read there will be no excuses not to make the perfect winter cocktail. The variety of alcohol (or liquor) that is covered in the book is explained in the introduction section, with a definition of the type of alcohol, the flavour and the colour which I found useful as I tend to stick to the same sort of spirits. There are 5 style of drinks that are covered within this book including:

  • Hot Toddies and Mulled Drinks
  • Eggnog, Hot Chocolate, Coffee and Tea
  • Punches and Pitchers
  • Chilled Winter Cocktails
  • Underpinnings, Infused Liquors, Simple Syrups etc.

Winter Cocktails

There are so many drinks that I want to make from this book, from the closing of Winter, into Spring and beyond. Bookmarked recipes so far include: Classic Eggnog , described as a cream-based drink sweetened with sugar and spiked with spirits, 1001 Nights described as a coconut, milk and date portion, Winter White Hot Chocolate, a snowy edition of the dark classic and Planters Punch, a tropical respite.
I made the Classic Hot Chocolate and was, quite frankly, blown away with how rich, delicious, thick, chocolatey this drink was. Certainly, no packet powdered hot chocolate could come close, and having never made hot chocolate from scratch before, I feel slightly cheated that I have never made this before considering how easy it is.  I topped my hot chocolate with marshmellows, which was perfect for a Sunday night chillaxing day.
Here is how my Classic Hot Chocolate topped with marshmellows turned out:
Homemade hot chocolate

Homemade hot chocolate

This was super simple to make ......

Melt the butter

Add cocoa powder and dark muscavodo sugar.

Add dark chocolate.

Add milk.


Recipe for Classic Hot Chocolate - serves 4
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup natural coco powder (I used 1.5tbsp)
3 tbsp dark muscavodo sugar
4 cups of whole milk
6 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate
1 tbsp vanilla extract
marshmellows for serving.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and brown sugar and whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer over a medium-high heat, cook, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Serve in warm mugs. Top with marshmellows and enjoy.
The lovely people from Quirk books are offering a copy of Winter Cocktails for one of my readers.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Winter Cocktails for review purposes, I was not required to write a positive review.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Miller and Carter, Penn

I always, associate steak houses with the good ol USA,  perhaps because a juicy steak is associated with indulgence and Americans are known for their indulgent portions, and perhaps because I have watched many episodes of man vs food where Andy Richman has reviewed many steak houses on his show. When I was informed that Miller and Carter, a chain of steak restaurants were to open nearby where I live, my friend promptly decided to have a birthday meal there. There are only 27 Miller and Carters in the country and two within the West Midlands.

There are currently a couple of offers at Miller and Carter, two courses for £15, sparkling wine for £15 and treats for people celebrating their birthday. A small group of us decided to visit on a Friday evening, a positive first impression was quickly diminished after we were informed that they do not reserve tables, and that tables are allocated on a first come first serve basis. I expect a first come, first serve attitude at perhaps a Mcdonalds, a Pizza Hut or a pub, but not at restaurant. There was a considerable wait before we were allocated a table, around 40 minutes, but we made use of the bar and the comfy chairs in the bar area. After around 40 minutes we were brought to a table, and luckily as it was my friends birthday we were all given a free glass of champagne, which helped to stop our group mumbiling about the wait in time. The atmosphere in the restaurant was welcoming, the staff were helpful and attentive once we were seated, and there were a number of people who were celebrating their birthdays (noticeable by the balloons).

The menu at Miller and Carter is vast, there is so much choice for meat lovers (perhaps not for vegetarians) and even for those who do not want to order a steak. Our group all skipped starters, but for those that like starters there was plenty of choice: Chargrilled chicken wings £4.95, King Prawn Cocktail £5.75 and black pearl scallops for £7.50. I opted out to order a steak, instead I ordered a Cajun chicken burger which cost £9.95 and came with the full works: fries, coleslaw, guacamole, jalapenos and salad garnish. This was fantastic value for money, and I, a person who loves large portions, struggled to finish this.  The burger was moist, cooked through and seasoned well. The fries were crispy, the coleslaw crunchy and the guacamole was either homemade or from a high end supermarket.

Cajun chicken burger

My friend ordered an 8 oz steak which cost £12.95. This came with parsley butter, seasoned fried, a slice of onion loaf, ice burg lettuce and a steak sauce.  I did not manage to get a picture of this generously portioned dish, but my friend reported the steak to be succulent, tender and moist.

If it is your birthday this is a wonderful place to celebrate as they give guests a glass of complimentary champagne.

Overall: A restaurant that serves delicious steaks, alongside a selection of alternatives, located on the outskirts of the city centre with main meals generously portioned.
Positives: The food tasted delicious, nice atmosphere, generous portion sizes, free champagne if it is your birthday.
Negatives: The long wait for a table.

Miller & Carter on Urbanspoon

I reviewed this restaurant because I love good food and am addicted to eating out.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Triple fish garliky pasta

One of my new years resolutions from 2013 was to cook more with fish. Fish is widely known as a healthier alternative to meat and some fishes are high in Omega 3 and B2 vitamins, which is great for keeping the body healthy. I haven't cooked so much with fish last year but, still the amount of fish I cooked was an improvement compared to previous years.  My triple fish pasta is my way of overcompensating for the lack of fish but it certainly was worth it, by adding three distinct fish flavours and textures to my pasta dish  Succulent king prawns are the first component to the dish, to me, they added the meaty element, the second was cooked mussels, described by some as the taste of the sea, and they added a chewy element. My third fish element was the added anchovies which I felt added flavour. The fish was cooked in a garliky mushroom sauce and tagliatelle, my favourite pasta, was added to the sauce. This was on the table within the 30 minutes and I will definitely make again. Don't be alarmed by the large quantity of mushrooms stated in the recipe: this reduces once they begin to cook and sweat and also are an extra serving of your recommended vegetable intake. This meal is refreshing, hearty and healthy and perfectly paired with a glass of crispy white wine.
Here is how my triple fish pasta turned out:
Triple fish pasta

Triple fish pasta

Prawns added.

Pasta added.

1 onion, sliced
2 garlic, finely chopped
3 pieces of anchovies
500g mushrooms, sliced
175g mussels
180g king prawn
creme fraiche
black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp boiling water

 Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the sliced onion to the pan for around 3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and when the oil absorbs the onion and mushrooms add the boiling water to the frying pan, leave the mushrroms to cook for around 5 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the kettle and place the taglitelle pasta in a pan and add the boiling water, cook for around ten minutes. Add the creme fraiche to the frying pan, alongside the prawns, mussels, anchovy pieces and black pepper to the pan, stir everything together and cook for 5 minutes - do not add salt, the anchovies will provide the salt. When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and add to the pan. Serve in a warmed pasta bowl and enjoy.

I am entering my triple fish garliky pasta to a couple of blogging challenges. Firstly Pasta Please is a monthly blogging challenge which is organised by Jacqueline from and guest hosted by this months theme is garlic.

I am also entering this dish to, the theme for this month is Tasty and Inexpensive. I was lucky enough to find the prawns and mussels reduced in Asda (as fish can be expensive) and the anchovies and mushrooms are usually a reasonable price.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Chocolate layer cake from The Primrose Bakery.

I can't say enough how much I love chocolate cake. It's the most blogged type of cake on my blog and I love trying new flavours with the chocolate, different decorations and experiment with different layers.  My coconut, lime and brownie meringue cakechocolate rum syrup cakes and chocolate and lime cake with candied lime peel are examples where I have tried something different to the simple chocolate cake.  Sometimes a simple chocolate cake decorated with some maltesers, m&m's or poppets are all you need for those lazy indulgent weekends, and this chocolate layer cake from Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery is one of those simple, easy and yet sublime cake which you will want to make time and time again. The chocolate cake turned out light, moist, soft and not overpowering with chocolate (as some chocolate cakes do). I was super impressed with the icing as I usually use butter and chocolate but this recipe calls for icing sugar too which I felt gave the chocolate butter icing a lift and enhanced the flavour of the chocolate. I simply decorated with some chocolate poppets, a simple and effective way to decorate these delicious cake.
Here is how my chocolate layer cake turned out:

Chocolate layer cake.

Chocolate layer cake.

Cooled chocolate added the butter, sugar and egg mixture.

Milk, flour added to the choc mixture.
Cake- pre bake

Cake baked.

Make buttercream and spread on each cake
Assemble, and decorate as you wish.

Recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes two 20cm (8 inch) cakes, which can be sandwiched together to make one layer cake

230g dark chocolate (I used a combination of milk and dark)
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
370g self-raising flour
pinch of baking powder
500ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To decorate
175g dark chocolate
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170C/190/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and lime two 20 cm cake tins with greaseproof paper.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt on a medium setting in 30 second bursts until completely melted. Stir well between each session. Alternatively, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir in occasionally until completely melted. Set the bowl aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth, which should take 3-5 minutes using an electric mixer. Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl and beat them for several minutes. Slowly add the egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar and beat well. Add the cooled chocolate to this mixture and again beat well.
Add the flour in a separate bowl. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug. Add one-third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one-third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites, with clean beaters, until soft peaks start to form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the main batter using a metal spoon. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and bake for about 30 minutes. Insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes - it should come out clean if it is cooked.
Remove the oven and leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool. Peel the greaseproof paper from the bases of the cakes. once they are cool, sandwich the layers together with chocolate buttercream icing and cover the top of the cake with more. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles or other decorations.

For the buttercream
Melt the chocolate in a bowl or a plastic jug in the microwave until smooth and of a thick pouring consistency. Stir occasionally until it has completely melted and is quite smooth. leave to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk and vanilla and icing sugar until smooth - this can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy. Spread on top of the cake.

I am entering this chocolate layer cake to two blogging challenges. Firstly, TeaTimeTreats which is guest hosted by the lovely Jane from The Hedge Combers and run by the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage. This months theme is eggs and this cake contains 3 eggs.

I'm also entering this into Calendar Cakes hosted by Dollybakes and Lauralovescakes. This months theme is "What makes you happy", I love love love chocolate cake so this certainly made me happy.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cafe Rouge Leicester

Cafe Rouge is a group of restaurants that offer a range of French cuisine at a reasonable price throughout the UK. Cafe Rouge has been around for at least 5 years , and some of my friends have encouraged me to visit this restaurant chain. I was a bit hesitant to visit Cafe Rouge as I had never tried French cuisine as I perceived this to be too rich, and I am firmly in love with Italian cuisine so would usually visit an Italian restaurant when dining out. Cafe Rouge in Leicester is located in the Highcross shopping centre, and is on a strip amongst other popular chain restaurants. Although you may read on the news that we have only just come out of a recession and some of us are struggiling you would never believe that if you visited here, it was jam packed, on a Tuesday!
The restaurant is large, light and spacious and we were seated on a table near the window, which was perfect for a spot of people watching. The service was slow, which I could only presume was due to the large amount of people visiting mid week, and that they did sufficient staff working. When the waitress eventually took our drinks order, (after 20 minutes of being seated) we had already chosen our starter and main and thought we would order these alongside our drinks as we would like to before midnight.

Cafe Rouge
For the starter we chose a sampler sharing board for 2-3 (there were 2 of us so plenty of food to go around) as I wanted to try a range of French starters. The sharing board was a platter board of pate maison, petit saucisson, houmous, olives, aromaticcured pork, marinated goats cheese boulee, red pepper tapenade & rustic breads. This cost £12.95, which I thought was reasonable for the range and amount of dishes on the platter.
Sampler sharing platter.
Luckily, we received our starter around 20 minutes after we placed our order. The bread was not warm, which I think is important when serving bread in restaurants (similar to food being served on hot plates), the olives were a large size, seedless, was not bitter and was stoneless. I skipped the goats cheese as this is not to my liking, but my friend "loved" the goats cheese and stated that it was quite rich. I was most please with the full flavoured pate and the homous and this was the highlight of the platter for me.

For the main, I ordered Confit de Canard (Duck legs)with a steeped cherry jus, snow peas and dauphinoise potatoes which cost £14.95. I could not go to a French restaurant for the first time and not order this classic dish. The main took around another 20 minutes after our starter to arrive. 

The duck and the berry jus was armoutic, rich and tender. I was a bit dissapointed with the small portion of the dauphonise potatoes, they were so creamy, warm and I would have liked a larger portion  for a carb lover like me.

I decided to opt out of a pudding as the main was so rich and after I just wanted to rest. I would probably visit Cafe Rouge again, but perhaps not the Leicester branch due to them taking time to take our orders and present our food.

Overall: A restaurant which is located in the heart of the city centre, a good place to start if you have not tried French cuisine before.
Positives: The sharing platter and Confit de Canard were lovely. 
Negatives: The service could be improved and bigger portion sizes for the main course. 

Square Meal Café Rouge - Leicester on Urbanspoon

I reviewed this restaurant because I love good food and am addicted to eating out.
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