Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cheesy Chips with Bacon and Onion

Ever since I went to the Diner in Spitalfields I've been daydreaming about their fries with crispy onion, bacon bits, cheese and burger sauce. I've never had anything like it - incredibly calorific but they tasted amazing. Often when you get cheesy chips in this country, they have had cheddar melted over them, and left to harden, so you end up with most of the chips plain, and a few with congealed cheese on them - not something I particularly like. At the Diner however the cheese stayed melted- it was more like a sauce. I was aware you could buy something called Cheez Whiz in America which is a sauce in a jar that you could use on chips if you wanted, but I didn't think you could get anything like that in the UK. Until I saw this Squeeze Cheese online - I think it was on Tesco's website but I can't find it there any more, though I think you have also been able to get it in Sainsbury's. You can heat the bottle in the microwave so you can squeeze it out, but it still comes out like toothpaste which is a bit strange so I then had to spread it a little - and to be honest I wasn't a big fan of the artificial taste.

I did the bacon and onion to go with it, in this new frying pan I was sent for review - the Green Earth frying pan by Ozeri. Aside from the fact that I love the colour this is a brilliant pan. It's 20cm which is a little smaller than my other frying pans but just right if you are cooking for one or two people and don't want to waste energy heating a bigger pan that is half empty.

It has a natural ceramic coating so is non-stick and a better conductor of heat than other pans but has no harmful chemicals. It works on my induction hob which is great.

It has an unusual textured surface which apparently makes the food less likely to stick and to cook evenly; it made a good job of my bacon and onions!

I cooked the chips in the oven and when they were ready squeezed over some of the cheese and spread it around a little, and chopped the bacon and onion and sprinkled it over the top. I realised afterwards it wasn't quite the same as I'd had in the Diner as I forgot the burger sauce! And as I said I don't think the cheese was as nice as whatever they used. This is definitely an occasional treat and not something you should have every time you had chips, but as we had this on a Saturday evening before the cinema - when my boyfriend would have preferred to go out to a burger restaurant - I didn't think it would do too much harm. Back on the salads tomorrow!

Thanks to Ozeri for sending me the frying pan to review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mini Ginger Madeleines

I've always associated madeleines with Proust's 'A la recherché du temps perdu' (I studied French literature at university) but have never actually eaten let alone made them before Madeleines are a French cake made with a genoise batter, making them lighter than other cakes, and are baked in special shell-shaped moulds. I was offered a selection of products to review by Cake Mart, and spotted they had this madeleine tin which is a very pretty piece of equipment.

Madeleines often have quite delicate flavours but I thought it would be interesting to see how they fared with a more robust flavour and a bit of a kick. I came across a recipe using cardamom and was sure I had some ground cardamom in my cupboard but couldn't locate it - and when I came across the ginger I decided that might work instead!

I based it on a recipe from Martha Stewart but changed the flavour and left off the glaze as I was in a hurry - I made these in the morning when I was driving down to Hampshire (my first time doing a 'proper' drive other than locally!) that day to see friends. Next time I make madeleines, which I will do now I have this lovely tin, I will try a glaze!

Mini ginger madeleines - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

Makes about 30 mini madeleines
You need:
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp vanilla flavouring
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 175C. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and add the honey and vanilla. Set to one side to cool.

Mix the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl then sift the flour. Add the ginger and fold in.

Pour in the melted butter and fold in.


Grease the madeleine pan - I used Cake Release - and carefully spoon in the mixture so it fills about 3/4 of each mould - this only took about 1 heaped teaspoon of mixture for each one.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes - they don't take long as they are so small. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and grease the pan again (being careful as it is hot) ready for the next batch.

I packaged these in pretty boxes I'd bought from Poundland to give to my friends as gifts.

The pan makes them come out perfectly - it's a robust metal tin that is easy to clean and should last for years so I will be experimenting with some more flavours!

Thanks to Cake Mart for sending the madeleine pan for review.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meal Planning Monday - Week 18

This week I'm trying to use up stuff from the freezer so I don't have to buy too much fresh stuff, as we are going on holiday soon!
Lunch: pasta
Dinner: sandwich before cake decorating course

Lunch: salad
Dinner: spaghetti bolognese

Wednesday: my birthday!
Lunch: out with work colleagues
Dinner: out with my boyfriend

Lunch: salad
Dinner: pork casserole with veg for me, sausage and mash for him

Friday - working from home
Lunch: salad
Dinner: burger and chips for him, salmon burger and homemade chips for me

Lunch: bacon sandwich/sausage sandwich
Dinner: may go to my boyfriend's mum's to see her before we go on holiday; she often likes to cook stir-fry

Lunch: fry up with leftover bacon and hash browns for him and something a bit less calorific for me
Dinner: TBA, maybe some sort of chicken tray bake

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Restaurant Review: Heston Blumenthal's The Perfectionists' Cafe

Since starting to post restaurant reviews on my blog I’ve made a real effort not to visit the same place twice – unless it was somewhere I really loved. The same applies to airports – when I was in my 20s I would take a sandwich to eat before a flight but these days having a meal at the airport is part of the holiday. It’s just a shame that food there is so expensive and in some cases not that good.
When we went to Vienna a few months ago we wanted to get breakfast at the airport, and since for a change we were flying from Heathrow’s Terminal 2, there was only one place I wanted to go: Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionists’ Café. I’ve never eaten in any of Heston’s establishments – while the idea of the Fat Duck is appealing, I’ve checked the menu and there is almost nothing on it I would eat and considering how much it costs, that means I won’t be going there! But his Perfectionists’ Café at Heathrow doesn’t have a fancy tasting menu and instead serves fish and chips, burgers, full English breakfasts – and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.
The restaurant stands out as looking quite upmarket, with nicely upholstered seats and an extensive modern bar; the waiting staff also wouldn’t be out of place in one of his more expensive restaurants.
The menu gives a lot of information about the provenance of the food and an explanation of the ‘three finger rule’ – you can’t fit more than three fingers into your mouth at once which means a burger needs to be squashable down to this thickness so you can taste all the layers at once! I bet you’re seeing how many fingers you can fit into your mouth now, right?
Much as I would have liked to have tried some of the main courses – and indeed the ice cream – I didn’t want any of them for breakfast. I decided to go for my standard airport breakfast, a sausage sandwich; priced at £5.75 it wasn’t really any more than I would have expected to pay elsewhere. The sausages are good quality – free range pigs from the Blythburgh estate, according to the menu – and I was half-hoping Heston’s culinary genius would be demonstrated in some way (perhaps an ipod to listen to the sound of the pigs squealing?!) but really there isn’t much anyone – even Heston – can do to jazz up a sausage sandwich (if I’m wrong and you have a great recipe, please let me know in the comments!). It was a good sandwich but I think I would break my habit and return to this restaurant if I was at the airport again so I could try their lunch menu.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Caramel-filled Chocolate Brownies

These are based on the salted caramel brownies that Alexa Chung made on the recent Comic Relief Great British Bake Off. I made them for my boyfriend's birthday as I wanted him to have something nice in his lunchbox at work; they also made for a quick dessert that evening at home (we had his family over for dinner). And they tasted amazing!

I followed the recipe which is here, though as I was short of time I used a tin of Carnation Caramel as the filling, which worked perfectly. I also added a little condensed milk to the brownie mixture as I had a tin open from another recipe and thought it might be nice!

Brownie mixture coming together

After preheating the oven, I spread half the brownie mixture into a greased pan and spread the caramel on top.

Then cover with the rest of the brownie mixture so there are no gaps.

Bake in the oven

When it has cooled, drizzle with melted white chocolate

You can see here the caramel in the middle - it tasted amazing!

Plenty for my boyfriend to enjoy in his lunchbox

I'm sharing my brownies with Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter I have chosen is B.

I'm also sharing this with Kitchen Clearout over at Madhouse Family Reviews, which is a roundup of dishes and recipes made from things found lurking at the back of the cupboard - which was the case with the Carnation caramel.

The theme for this month's Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Jane at The Hedgecombers, is chocolate.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Slimming World Asparagus and Red Pepper Muffins

Now that the weather is getting nicer our thoughts are turning to al fresco eating. Whether it's a picnic in the park with your friends, high tea at the garden table with the family or even just taking your packed lunch outside the office to eat on a bench, you are going to need recipes which are easy to
throw together in a hurry, can be packed up and eaten cold - preferably without the need for cutlery!

These asparagus and red pepper 'muffins' are low calorie and fat free; they aren't muffins in the usual sense as there is no cake - instead the filling is made from egg. The recipe comes from Slimming World so it is great for anyone following a heathy eating plan. The colours are really vibrant which is another reason I like this recipe.

To make a dozen, you need:
Spray oil such as Fry Light
200g asparagus tips
1 jar roasted red peppers in brine, drained and chopped
6 eggs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
small handful fresh chopped herbs eg tarragon, parsley
salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for two minutes then chop

Mix in a bowl with the chopped red pepper

Line a muffin tray with paper cupcake cases and spray the inside of each one with Fry Light. Place a spoonful of the asparagus and red pepper mixture into each one.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Pour into each muffin case, being careful not to fill too much. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until risen.

Allow to cool before removing from the tin

These can be served warm or cold; just peel off the paper cases and enjoy.

These will keep for a few days in the fridge in a sealed container so you can make them at the weekend to take into work or make them a day or two before your picnic.

I'm sending this to Eat Your Greens, hosted by Shaheen at Allotment2Kitchen, as it contains a green vegetable.

These are also a good way to get some extra veg into your diet so I am sending this recipe to the Extra Veg challenge hosted this month by Jo's Kitchen on behalf of Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

The theme for this month's Treat Petite is hello spring, and I think these muffins are perfect for spring. The challenge is hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat at the Baking Explorer.

Asparagus is now in season so I'm also sending this to Simple and In Season, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours on behalf of Ren Behan.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Restaurant Review: Giraffe Kiosk, King's Cross

Opinions on the Giraffe restaurant chain seem to be divided – the fact that it is usually full of families with children seems to put a lot of people off – but I really like it. So one day when I was travelling to London’s King’s Cross station for a morning meeting, and arrived so early I decided I had time to get breakfast (having skipped it at home as I was in a rush to leave) I was pleased when I spied a Giraffe Kiosk.

This is the chain’s “grab and go” service, and so far they only have one, at King’s Cross. It is takeaway but importantly there are a few tables outside and some stools along the window inside, which means if you do have a little more time – or want to eat something that’s difficult to eat with one hand while walking along – this is perfect. At the same time it’s quicker than going into a café.
The kiosk offers continental breakfast favourites like croissants, plus porridge, muesli pots, breakfast burritos (as well as a lot of lunch choices like wraps, salads and sandwiches) – and my favourite breakfast, a sausage sandwich. This is what I ordered  and it was a little different to the usual, as it came with Panini-style bread that had been grilled and squashed flat with the sausages inside. In retrospect that is actually quite a good idea as it’s much easier to eat while walking – which I imagine most people do rather than sit at one of the tables.

It was a bit disappointing that the sandwich only had one and a half sausages inside (which had been cut in half) which I didn't think was particularly good value for money for £4.75. This isn't a bad place though and I will definitely be on the lookout to see if any more of these Kiosks open in other locations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Best-Ever Lemon Cake for a Baby Shower

This is a perfect cake for someone going on maternity leave or who has just had a baby – a deliciously light, zingy lemon cake decorated with a teddy bear and a bow.
I made this for the lovely lady I sit next to at work for her last day before maternity leave. I’ve made a couple of cakes for baby showers before and

didn’t want to do exactly the same thing again, but it’s hard to think of something completely different (and I flatly refuse to make one of those baby bump cakes where the cake is the woman’s stomach!). Luckily I had been on a half-day cake decorating course not long before, where we had made a fondant teddy and a bow. I made them in lilac, a gender neutral colour, which was good because my colleague doesn’t know whether she will be having a boy or girl.
I had found out by a not-particularly-subtle line of questioning a few weeks before that her favourite flavour cake was lemon so that’s what I decided to make. I wasn’t overly impressed with some of the lemon cakes I’ve made in the past – they were good, but not as moist and light as I would have liked, so I decided to try something different.
I came across this recipe from the wonderful Richard Burr, a runner up on the last Great British Bake Off. I didn’t have time to make a triple-layer cake so changed the quantities, and I knew I wanted to decorate it differently, and I also made a different filling, so really it isn’t his recipe at all (his is for a lemon and raspberry cake ) – I just used it as a starting point. So I think I can safely say that this is my own recipe. It was probably the nicest lemon cake I’ve ever eaten, so I am calling this the
Best-Ever Lemon Cake – an original recipe by Caroline Makes
Double these quantities for a bigger cake – this made two thin layers each about 2cm high.
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the filling:
250g butter, softened
500g icing sugar, sifted
3 tbsp lemon curd
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease (and also line, if desired) a loose-bottomed 20cm round cake tin.
Cream the butter and the sugar then whisk in the eggs. Fold in the flour, then the lemon zest and juice.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked (test the middle with a skewer). Allow to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, carefully slice through the middle so you have two layers. As mentioned before, these will be quite thin –once the cake is covered in fondant it adds height but if you’re not going to do that and want to ice the top, you may want to double the quantities of this recipe to make a deeper cake (which will need a longer cooking time).
To make the filling, carefully cream the butter with a little of the icing sugar, adding more icing sugar as you continue to mix. When you have used all the icing sugar add the lemon curd and stir in. Use to fill the cake; I also used a little as a crumb coating for the sides and top as I was covering it in fondant.

I rolled out the fondant and covered the cake, then simply placed the teddy bear and bow I had already made on top. I also had a few flowers I had made for another project and didn’t use which I brushed with lilac lustre dust and added these to the cake as well.

I actually had to make the cake two days in advance as I was out in the evenings and wanted the cake for a particular day when my colleague was departing for maternity leave. I wrapped the cake in foil and placed it in a cake tin and it tasted perfect even three days later when there were a few slices of the cake left. I highly recommend this lovely set of cake tins from Flamingo Gifts – they come as a set of three of varying sizes, which of course fit inside each other for convenient storage. The RRP is £25 which I think is reasonable for a set of three – the largest tin is very roomy and the middle tin will also comfortably fit a cake, while you could use the smallest tin for biscuits. I love the fun animal designs which are also available on other products in the range like egg cups and coasters.
Everyone at work thought the cake looked very pretty and it tasted wonderful so I will be bookmarking this recipe to make again!

I'm sharing my baby shower cake with Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter I have chosen is B.

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

Last weekend's Grand Prix took place in Bahrain which was a hard one for many of us in food terms. The idea of the challenge is to make something from or inspired by the host country of each Formula 1 race and I'd never eaten let alone made anything from Bahrain before. So it was funny that of the three entries I had this month, two of us made the same dish!

Suelle at Mainly Baking made this Middle Eastern date cake, which uses rose water, cardamom, saffron and sesame seeds to give a moist and fragrant cake.

I made chicken machboos, which is a type of curry using a blend of Arabic spices - which naturally I didn't have so I mixed my own. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, as I never cook rice from scratch, but it turned out pretty well!

Jane at Onions and Paper also made chicken machboos and commented on the length of the recipe and list of ingredients; she didn't take as many shortcuts as I did and I have to say I think her dish looks a lot better than mine!

The next Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place over May 8-10 in Spain so add your Spanish-inspired recipes to the link up below! You've got a bit longer this time so I hope I get plenty of entries!