Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 17

It's my birthday this week! I am out in Covent Garden in the afternoon on the day itself - Saturday - and going out for dinner with my husband in the evening, then the next day I have a couple of friends visiting and we are doing a room escape game which I'm looking forward to, then going out for dinner - then Monday is a bank holiday so I have that day off as well!

Monday
chicken curry

Tuesday
Starting a new weight loss programme in the evening straight after work which means I won't get to have dinner until late as I won't get home til 8.30! Which slightly defeats the object in my opinion as I will just want to eat the first thing I can find but I need to be good so am going to plan something very quick!
Lunch: chicken salad
Dinner: Slimming World cauliflower rosti pie (make at lunchtime and heat up later)

Wednesday
Turkey, lime and honey stir-fry from an old M&S magazine I was going to do last week but didn't

Thursday
Smoked mackerel in mustard sauce I was going to do last week but didn't

Friday
Fish and chips - Friday treat. From the freezer not the chip shop!

Saturday - my birthday!
Lunch: hoping my husband might make brunch or lunch!
Dinner: out with my husband

Sunday
Lunch: crumpets and hot cross buns
Dinner: out with friends

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Chocolate Star Wars R2D2 40th Birthday Cake

My husband was very lucky for his 40th birthday. As well as some great presents including a 'carvolution' framed picture of all 9 cars he'd ever owned  - interestingly, they seem to have put their prices up quite a bit since I bought it a few weeks ago - and a meal at Hawksmoor, he had two birthday cakes.

We were spending his birthday with some of his family - more on this in another post as I will do a restaurant review.  In the evening after a day out in London we had a takeaway at his brother's house so he could put the children to bed and keep an eye on them. There were six adults but I knew that the following weekend we were seeing more of my husband's family with up to ten people - so I wanted to make him a birthday cake for his birthday but also another cake a week later.

He requested a chocolate cake and I planned a chocolate extravaganza for the bigger occasion, and had an idea for the other one quite some time ago. My husband has mentioned a few times a birthday cake he had as a child in the shape of R2D2 which he thought was brilliant - I thought it would be fun for him to have the same sort of cake when he turned 40!

I bought an R2D2 silicon cake mould for only £5 or so in the Lakeland sale back in January which I hoped would make the cake a doddle, though I wasn't sure how easy decorating it would be. In the end it was actually relatively easy.

The cake mould is quite large and it says on the box to use an 8-egg recipe; but other than that there wasn't any guidance. I spent a while googling 'what recipe to use for Lakeland R2D2 cake mould' and didn't really come up with much, so decided to use my trusty chocolate wedding cake recipe. This is the recipe from BBC Good Food that I used for the middle layer of my wedding cake and when I made the wedding cake of Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker. It works brilliantly every time and is a 10-egg recipe; I scaled it down to use eight eggs but had enough mixture left over after filling the R2D2 pan to make another 9-inch cake which I put in the freezer!

So I recommend that for the R2D2 cake pan you use a six or even five egg recipe; you can basically divide the quantities of the BBC chocolate cake recipe in half. You'd then need to adjust the cooking time and I'd advise keeping an eye on it and testing with a skewer - I think I baked mine for an hour and a half but didn't make a note as I was playing it by ear.

A lot of chocolate

The cake turned out perfectly and as always with this recipe was moist and super-chocolatey.



I had sprayed the pan liberally with PME Release-a-Cake spray, making sure I got into all the nooks and crannies. The cake came out of the silicon mould perfectly and you can see all the details of R2D2.

I wanted these details to show through when I decorated the cake so instead of covering the cake with buttercream, I brushed it with some warm runny apricot jam. I carefully sliced the cake through the middle and filled the centre with chocolate buttercream and then covered it with white fondant, rolled fairly thin, which I smoothed down so the details of the cake still showed through.


I then cut some pieces of blue fondant for the details and before I stuck them onto the cake, sprayed the white parts silver with PME edible silver lustre spray.




Lakeland R2D2 cake


I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chocolate Marbled Easter Meringue Nests


Dr. Oetker came up with some great new recipes this Easter, which you can see on their website here. I liked the look of the tear and share hot cross buns but I didn't really have the time. Instead I made this - I actually thought I'd shared this post over Easter, oops!


Dr. Oetker sent me a selection of their products to try and I was intrigued by the powdered egg white as I don't think I have used that before. It replaces fresh egg white and saves you from ending up with a lot of unused egg yolks if you are making meringue.

I decided to make their chocolate marbled meringues; you can find the recipe on this link. Instead of filling them with fruit I gave them an Easter twist by filling with chopped marshmallows, a couple of Cadbury mini eggs and some whipped cream, and drizzling them with some melted Dr. Oetker Cooks' 72% Extra Dark Chocolate.

The egg white powder was really easy to use - I was worried when I mixed the powder with water as directed that I had left it a little lumpy but the lumps disappeared and it cooked perfectly, and I mean perfectly. The meringues were crispy and chewy in the middle and lifted off the baking paper without problem. They are very sweet so I think the original recipe suggestion of filling them with fresh fruit is a good idea, and I recommend dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate which is sweeter.

I'll definitely use powdered egg white again as I often end up with yolks I don't know what to do with - it costs £1.15 for a pack of 4 sachets from most supermarkets.

Don't you just love glossy meringue?


Marbling with melted chocolate
 


Ready to go in the oven


 
And after two hours of baking


 
 Decorated with marshmallows, mini eggs and topped with whipped cream and melted chocolate
 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Red Gingham Mothers' Day Card


This sweet little card was a super-quick make, as most of the elements came from the same pack. I think it was a free gift with a cardmaking magazine and contained the backing paper - which looks like three different papers but it is actually one!

The sentiment in a little frame looks cute - this came from the same pack and I stuck it into the middle of the card. I had some 'happy Mothers Day' sentiments in red in a pack of stickers and placed this on the top of the card.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Restaurant Review: Hawksmoor, Commercial Street, London

For my husband's 40th birthday there was no hesitation when it came to a restaurant for dinner. He absolutely loves Hawksmoor, and since his birthday was a Saturday and we had plans with his family, I offered to take him to Hawksmoor on the Friday night after work.

We've been to Hawksmoor in Air Street near Piccadilly a couple of times; you can read my review here. This time we decided to go to the one in Commercial Street, near Shoreditch, as it is nearer where we both work.

Walking from Bishopsgate and down a side street onto Commercial Street, I looked left and right and saw Nando's one way, the Old Truman Brewery the other and a bunch of shops like Urban Outfitters - nothing that leapt out at me as one of London's best steak restaurants. I had to use Google Maps to pinpoint the location and quickly found it - the restaurant is mainly below ground, with a discreet sign above a door at street level but not much else.

The staff were really friendly and helpful, and I mentioned it was my husband's 40th birthday both on booking and when I arrived, as I got there before my husband and the person in front of me at reception had brought a cake for a surprise birthday for the table he was joining. I didn't have a cake with me as I'd been at home all that day baking a birthday cake to share with my husband's family the following day on his actual birthday!


The atmosphere was noisier and the other diners more 'colourful' (including a drunk couple who spilled a drink over the man next to us and nearly got into a fight), prompting my husband to comment that the Air Street restaurant was a lot quieter and more conservative than the Shoreditch location. I don't know if he's right, but I think the next time we go to Hawksmoor (which we will, because we love it), we will probably choose the Air Street location again.

The steak was beautifully cooked and really tasty - we both had the fillet, pretty steep at £35 but so good - and for dessert, my husband had the sticky toffee pudding (£8) and I'd had my eye on the Crunchy Bar (£8.75, 50p of which goes to Action Against Hunger charity) from the start. As far as I can remember it had a biscuit base, a layer of caramel, ice cream and pieces of honeycomb - it was really good.

I spent ages scrutinising the extensive cocktail menu at the start before my husband arrived, and finally settled upon the Champagne Charlie - so felt a bit silly when I turned to the food menu and printed across the top were their top three recommended cocktails - including the one I had spent ages choosing! Champagne Charlie was described as containing Beefeater gin, lemon, seasonal fruit syrup and champagne. I asked the waiter what the seasonal fruit was and he said beetroot - that isn't a fruit! I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and was actually amazed at how good it tasted!


When our desserts arrived I had hoped my husband's might have had a birthday candle stuck in it and was mildly disappointed that it didn't - and then moments later the waiter brought out another plate, with 'happy birthday' written in chocolate and three of their homemade salted caramel rolos - these are on the menu for £4 for 4, and I've often wanted to try them but never have. The chocolate shell contains almost liquid caramel - they are really good and it was lovely to receive them as an extra treat.

So overall it was an excellent meal and a great way to kick off the celebrations for my husband's 40th birthday.
 

 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Follow Your Dreams Shaker Card

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 16

Monday; bank holiday
Lunch- bacon sandwich
Dinner- vol au vents with leftover lamb and pomegranate. A slightly odd recipe as I've had some vol au vents in the freezer for ages that need using up and found a recipe for fatayer - spiced lamb pastry parcels with pomegranate - that I thought I could adapt for vol au vents! I think they would go well with salad.
 
Tuesday
Lunch - leftover lamb and pomegranate flatbread
Dinner - out at an event, will grab something en route

Wednesday
Lunch leftover vol au vents with salad
Dinner - potentially out with a friend; if not, I will make yogurt-spiced chicken with rice from a Weightwatchers recipe I printed out years ago

Thursday
Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner -turkey, lime and honey stir-fry from an old M&S magazine
 
Friday
Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner - smoked mackerel in mustard sauce
 
Saturday 
Lunch - on a bbq course
Dinner - crab and chilli spaghetti for me, spaghetti carbonara for him
 
Sunday
Lunch - scrambled egg bagel
Dinner - roast beef (unless the weather gets really hot and we don't want a roast!)

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