Friday, 18 April 2014

Barbers cheese, review and giveaway.

I love cheese, especially strong flavoured cheese, perhaps a little too much (it's a bit like chocolate once you have a slice you just can't stop), with savoury biscuits, grapes and wine, on top of pasta dishes, in sandwiches, on top of jacket potatoes, you get the jist. When Barbers cheese asked me to make a recipe from their website, I happily obliged. For me, the cheese of choice is extra mature cheddar cheese or a vintage cheddar cheese, so was pleasantly  happy to discover that Barbers cheese is vintage reserve cheddar cheese. The flavour of this cheese is strong, rich, vintage and far unique compared to bog standard supermarket cheese that I usually purchase. The Barber family have been making farming and making cheese in Somerset since 1833 and is currently farmed on a whopping 2,500 acres to some 2,000 dairy cows. I think what helps the unique taste is that The Barber family, which is currently run by cousins Anthony, Chris, Charlie and Giles Barber, the sixth generation of the Barber family continue to use traditional cheddaring techniques.

I was sent the recipe back for the Spinach and cheese souffle and bravely tried to make a souffle (which I have never done before) and was less than pleased with the apperance although the taste was lovely, I was not happy to soley share this recipe as I did not feel the presentation of my souffle fully showed of the deliciousness of this cheese. I decided to also make the French classic Croque Monsieur recipe on their website which was absolutely amazing!!! Probably the best lunch i've eaten in 2014 so far.
Croque Monsieur

Mustard spread on bread

Barbers cheese grates on bread

Ham on top of cheese

Croque Monsieur toasting
I made the cheese and spinach souffle which although tasted nice, I do not feel looks that appeasing, it was the first time I've made souffle before, as they say practice makes perfect.
Barbers cheese

Barbers cheese mixture

Barbers cheese souffle

Souffle baked

Souffle and asparagus

The lovely people at Barbers cheese are offering one lucky reader will receive several packets of Barbers cheese.  Just follow the instructions on the rafflecopter.

  •  Follow the instructions on the rafflecopter widget.
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  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.
  • The competition will run from 18.04.14 - 20.05.14
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  • Babrber's cheese will dispatch the book to the lucky winner.
  • The competition is open to UK residences only.
Please feel free to share the giveaway and good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent a recipe pack from Barber's Cheese, all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Prawn and chorizo pie.

I love a good ol pie, especially a pie made with a good pastry and a delicious filling. Savoury pies is a traditional British meal served regularly up and down British pubs and are especially comforting during the winter months. I also like sweet pies and regularly make a Mississippi mud pie to cater to my love of pastry and chocolate. As we are firmly in the season of Spring and looking forward to the summer months, I felt it was time to bake a pie which has summer flavours. Tart It Up by Eric Lanlard is a fantastic book for all pie and tart lovers as this cookbook contains 100 sweet and savoury recipes dedicated to the pastry. As I will shortly visit Espana over the coming weeks, I thought I would get in holiday mode with this Spanish inspired pie. Prawns reminds me of the summer months, these delicate seafood are always refreshing and paired with the flavoursome, robust flavours of chorizo and the flavoured rice makes this pie a vibrant change to the traditional pairings and also for those who have visited Spain will remind you of those sunny days. I thoroughly enjoyed not only eating but making this pie. Don't be put off by using the rice in a pie, it holds the robust flavours and I think the idea here is having a paella style pie.
Here is how my prawn and chorizo pie turned out:
Prawn and chorizo pie.

Prawn and chorizo pie baked and cut.

Prawn and chorizo mixture.

Prawn and chorizo pre bake

Prawn and chorizo prebake

Prawn and chorizo pie baked

Serves 6
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes

450g shortcrust pastry
plain flour, for dusting
butter, for greasing
200g chorizo, thickly sliced
500g tiger prawns shelled and devined (I used peeled frozen prawns)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150ml passata or tomato sauce
300g Spanish rice or long grain rice, cooked
1tsp paprika
100g fresh peas
1tsp salt
1tsp freshly ground pepper
1 egg beaten

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Grease a 26x20x4cm large pie dish or oven dish.
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the dish. Roll out the remaining pastry to make the pie lid and set aside.
Put all the ingredients, except for the egg, into a bowl and stir to combine. Turn the mixture into the pie dish.
Moisten the edge of the pastry with half of the beaten egg. Drape the pastry lid on top and crimp to seal.
Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg to glaze, then bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Cinnamon and Almond Cake

When thinking about food, I spend the majority of my time thinking of new recipes, looking at new cookbook releases which look so appealing or feeling guilty that I have so many books that I do not cook from. Nigellissima from Nigella Lawson cookbook falls in the latter category. I have only cooked a handful of dishes from this book, including The Italian tray bake  which is my most viewed blog post.  I probably bake cakes once a month and as I am reminiscing over my Italian city break I decided to make a cake from this book. Cinnamon and almond cake is indexed under Italian Christmas section and I am aware that we are no where near Christmas but the cake looked so delicious I thought I would attempt to make it in the sunny Midlands. Now, I've adapted the recipe to my liking, the recipe used a large amount of eggs, no less than 8, but I felt that this was too excessive and a bit of a waste, so I used 4 eggs. Also, I've never made a flourless cake before and wasn't brave enough to try this at this time, so I added 125g self-raising flour. I liked the strong almond flavour that came with every bite, I couldn't really taste the cinnamon, perhaps if I were to make this next time I would increase the amount of cinnamon next time. I also served a slice of this moreish cake with a healthy helping of rum & raisin ice cream:
Here is how my cinnamon and almond cake turned out:
Cinnamon and almond cake.

Cinnamon and almond cake.

Cinnamon and almond cake.

8 egg whites (I used 4 whole eggs) 
150g caster sugar
Few drops almond extract
Zest of 1 clementine or ½ orange
125 mls mild and light olive oil, plus more for greasing tin
150g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
100g flaked almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
approx 2 tsp icing sugar to decorate

I added 125g self-raising flour as I was worried about a flourless cake.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 23cm springform cake pan (or use a special baking spray) and line the base with parchment paper.
In a clean, grease-free bowl. Whisk the egg whites until they are opaque and start to hold their shape, then slowly add the sugar, whisking until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is thick and shiny.
Add the almond extract and the clementine or orange zest. Then, in about 3 goes each, alternately whisk in the oil and the ground almonds (mixed with the baking powder) until they are both smoothly incorporated into the meringue.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, then mix together the flaked almonds and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.
 Bake for 35-40 minutes (though start checking at 30), by which time the top should have risen and be set and the almonds become golden; and a cake tester should come out clean, barring the odd almond crumb.
Remove from the oven and let the cake cool, in its tin, on a wire rack. Once it is no longer hot, spring open the sides of the tin, but don’t try to remove the cake from the base until properly cool.
When you are ready to serve, push the icing sugar through a small strainer and over the cake to create a snowy effect, and take to the table.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Cake and Bake Show Manchester 2014

The Cake and Bake Show returned to Manchester for the second year and was held at Manchester Exhibition Centre. I did not visit Cake and Bake last year but after reading last years reviews on various blogs and seeing the numerous cake pictures, I was determined to go this year. I walked into Manchester Exhibition centre to large crowds of men, women and children holding onto goodie bags and promptly made my way into the arena to visit the variety of stalls. I was pleasantly pleased that the stalls included a variety of not only sweet treats but also there were several bread and stalls selling savoury goodies - there was a balance between sweet and savoury.
There were 3 demonstration theatres which were free to watch, the first being The Competition Theatre where on Saturday featured baking challenges from Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell, alongside this years Great British Bake Off contestants and during each show 2 members of the audience were chosen to bake alongside these baking experts, no pressure there then!
The second theatre, the Cake Theatre featured demonstrations from headlining chefs making  sweet treats including John Waite, Eric Lanlard and Rosemary Shrager. I watched the key lime pie demonstration by Eric Lanlard and he made this sweet pie look super simple to make and it looked so luxurious with all the condensed cream.
The third theatre The Baking Theatre shared chefs who have a great knowledge of bread making and savoury baking. I watched Andy Bates demonstration of chicken and pie which would make a lovely weekend evening meal.
I also bumped into a couple of the celebrity chefs who were very friendly.

There was such a large variety of stalls and one of the stalls to really catch my eye, was known other than the Primrose Bakery stall where the co-owner of this famous shop, Martha Stewart was there and was happy to sign copies of her popular baking books. I tried one of her chocolate cupcakes which was simply divine, I must pop into one of their branches when I'm next in London.

I was delighted with the large variety of bread stalls, as I'm more of a savoury person and can gorge on bread all day long, the selection of bread was amazing. I discovered a stall that sold beautiful, large loaves with some unique flavour combinations such as chilli, lime and coriander and garlic and herb stromboli.

I watched the first of two demonstrations, the first being from Andy Bates who is known for his Street Feasts series on Food Network. He showed the audience to make chicken and ham pie, using chicken thighs for extra flavour and he decorated the top of the pie with berries (once removing the top part), a unique twist to a British Classic. I interviewed Andy after the demo and will share this in a later blog post.

As it is a cake and bake show, there was the opportunity to enter into a cake competitions and there certainly are some very talented bakers, sculptors and decoraters.

A stall that really caught my eye was Cameo Cakes who offered a large range of blingtastic cake accessories, decorations and even none cakey stuff like key rings (which my cousin brought).

As a big fan of chocolates I was blown away with the posh and decadent chocolates from master chocolatier Anneesh Popat, how stunning are his chocolates?

To another master chocolatier Paul Young had a very decadent stall, features beautiful flavours of chocolates I was looking forward to (hopefully) bumping into Paul even brought my book for him to sign but must of just missed him. These chocolates were so tempting, it was difficult to resist.

Elise's May brownies had some sweet treats, I didn't buy anything this year, but hopefully she will return next year so I can sample some of her goodies.

Perhaps my favourite stall was Teahive  who have their own shop in Chorlton. The salted caramel chocolate cake was AMAZING!!! I've never tried anything so rich and addictive in all of my baking years. I loved this cake so much and when I'm next in Manchester will have to visit this tea room.

Solreno were selling chocolate based liquiors which my cousin (as I was driving) stated tasted lovely and sweet.

If you love fudge, Toms fudge would be the stall for you, carefully handcrafted fudge with sublime flavours are perfect for all the fudgeaholics out there.

Last but not least, I purchased a selection of donuts, Belgian buns and cakes from Sprinkle king.

Disclaimer: I attended the Cake and Bake show on a Press Pass, although all thoughts and opinions were my own.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Big Nanny Caribbean restaurant

I visited Big Nanny's Caribbean restaurant back in January this year. As a lover of Caribbean food, Big Nanny's restaurant is one of the more popular Caribbean restaurants in Birmingham and the owner, Veda has appeared on Britain's Best Dish and opened this restaurant shortly after. Big Nanny's is Birmingham City Council official Caribbean caterers so I knew that the food would be delicious. I was meaning to visit this restaurant for some time but never actually got round to it. As a big fan of Groupon, I was pleasantly pleased to discover there was a deal of a two-course Caribbean meal for two people at Big Nanny's £16 (60% off) which is an absolute bargain and a deal that I promptly booked on a Saturday.
The restaurant is situated off the main road, down a side alley in the Jewelry Quarter Area of the city and is intimate with seating for 40. Upon arrival we were promptly greeted by a waiter and shown to our table.

I love saltfish fritters and previously blogged about them and share these beauties on my Facebook page, so I promptly ordered these for my starter which costs £4.95, my friend ordered Caribbean fish and chips £4.95. I also ordered the main at the same time as I dislike a long wait between courses. We waited for around 30 minutes for our starters, which I consider to be long, especially if you are starving. When my saltfish fritters finally arrived I was impressed with the presentation and the fritters looked like they were cooked in a tempura batter and came with a sweet chili dip. The saltfish fritters were crispy on the outside, the fish tender on the inside and had a slight kick to it. My friend added that the Caribbean fish and chips were delicious (I still don't understand why you would order fish and chips at a Caribbean restaurant!)

For our mains we waited even longer than 30 minutes, perhaps around 40 minutes, which led me to think perhaps there were only 1 or 2 people cooking the dishes which I did not think was acceptable for a Saturday service. I ordered the Caribbean pork curry £11.95 (Diced pieces of tender pork in a rich sauce infused with ginger) which was served with plain boiled white rice, alongside a side dish of fried plantain £1.50. My friend ordered the Beef stew (Beef with red kidney beans slowly cooked in a rich coconut cream sauce with dumplings), alongside a portion of boiled food (yams, banana and dumplings).

As the food took forever to arrive we received a complimentary side order of stewed cabbage which was some conciliation for the long wait. The pork was moist, tender cooked in a rich and flavoursome sauce, the rice was fluffy and of a generous portion and the fried plantain was crisp, sweet and a firm favourite. My friend reported the stew beef and boiled food to be tasty.

The Groupon deal did not include desserts but I love to try Caribbean flavoured puddings and desserts, but not a big fan of the calarofic content. For my pudding/dessert (depending upon where you are from in the UK) I stuck to sampling the best coffee in the world, blue mountain coffee (£4.00) which was absolutely amazing,  the aroma and taste was out of this world. My friend ordered a full fat, decadent, Caribbean chocolate rum cake with cream (£4.00) which I did sample a tbsp and was blown away with the rum content and richness of the cake, simply divine.

My food at Big Nanny's

Overall: A friendly restaurant situated on the outskirts of the city centre with delicious Caribbean food, full of flavour and hearty portions sizes. I would visit again, but only with the assurance that there would not be such a significant waiting time.

Positives: All the food ordered was delicious, the quality of the food can not be faulted.
Negatives: The ridiculously long wait for food which is not acceptable for a Saturday night service.

Big Nannys Caribbean Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Aunt Sally's meatbloaf

This dish is described as a true American Classic which is great served with mashed potatoes and ketchup. I've only made meatloaf once before (recipe from Nigella's Kitchen cook book) and that dish contained eggs, which was not to my liking. This version of meatloaf is stated to be old fashioned and was right up my street! I found the meatloaf to be hearty so it can be served for family gatherings and also can be made 2 days ahead if kept covered in the refrigerator. I didn't anticipate that this dish would take so long to make, so I would strongly advise you to make this dish over a weekend. I liked how the spinach added a speckled colour in the meatloaf and I ensured everything is well seasoned which enhances the flavour. Once the preparation is out of the way, which is easy and simple enough, you can let the oven do all the hard work. After around 1 and a half hours my meatloaf was baked.  As a lover of mince I was pleasantly pleased with how flavoursome the mince and bacon turned out. I served my meatloaf with rice and garden peas which is perhaps not the classic accompaniments, but worked well.
Baked meatloaf

Meatloaf and rice

Meatloaf and rice

Spinach cooking

Onions and mince added

Spinach added 

Eggs added


Meatloaf baked

Serves 4-6, Prep 25-30 minutes, Cook 1 - 1/2 hours
175g spinach
salt and pepper
375g streaky bacon rashers
2 eggs
6 slices of white bread
750g minced beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Prepare the ingredients
1) Remove the tough ribs and stalks from the spinach. Wash it well in a sink of water, then repeat, until all traces of grit and soil are gone. Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add salt, then spinach and simmer for 2-3 minutes, just until tender. Do not overcook, or the spinach will lose it's vivid colour and the flavour will dull.
2) Drain the spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and retain the bright green colour, and drain again thoroughly.
3) Cut the bacon into tiny strips, reserving 4 neat rashers for the top of the meat loaf. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl until evenly blended. Trim off and discard the crusts from the bread. Work the bread slices in the food processor or blender, using the pulse button, until they form even crumbs, then tip them into a large bowl that is big enough to comfortably hold all the remaining ingredients.
4) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 Add the minced meat, chopped spinach, onion, garlic,  Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the large bowl and mix.
5) Add the beaten eggs and lightly mix them in. To test for seasoning, fry a spoonful of the mixture in a frying pan until browned on both sides. Taste it and add more seasoning to the remaining mixture if necessary.
6) Transfer to a 23x13x7.5cm (9x5x3in), or 900g (2lbs), loaf tin, pressing it down and patting with a wooden spoon to smooth the top. arrange the reserved bacon rashers on top of the meat loaf.
7)  Bake the meat loaf in the heated oven for 1-1 1/4 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre for 30 seconds come out hot to the the touch. Let it stand at least 10 minutes in the tin to reabsorb the juices and become easier to slice. Run a knife around the edge, unmould the meat loaf and cut into slices.