Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dhaniya Spices, Recipe, Review and Giveaway.

I'm a firm believer that every meat dish should be seasoned well, ideally overnight, to ensure maximum flavour. I'm also a firm believer in using good quality spices, pastes and rubs to enhance  flavour so was pleased to discover Dhaniya , Authentic Indian cooking when at BBC Good Food Show.  I'm actually a big fan of the website and the recipes available online show the versatility of the pastes and rub, with my favourite recipes including Pomegranate Chicken and Curry Penne Carbonara. I've used many Indian pastes and seasoning in the past as these are fundamental when making a curry dish for example, however I was incredibly impressed by the range of pastes and rubs that Dhaniya sells such as: Pomegranate rub, Lamb Rub, Bombay Potato Rub and Classic Curry Paste. Each luxury paste is thoroughly described in terms of the spices, heating  and the flavour. With paste ranging from £2.99 to £3.69 these products are an affordable taste of luxury.
Dhaniya Paste
The lovely people at Dhaniya sent me a selection of their pastes and rubs: Pomegranate Rub, Fish Curry Paste and Spiced Korma Paste. I instantly decided to make my adaptation of Pomegranate Chicken  served with Bindi Bartha (Stuffed Okra). I also have plans to use the fish curry paste to make fish wraps and the korma paste to make a korma of course.

Here is how my Pomegranate Chicken and Bindi Bartha using Dhaniya rub turned out:
Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken.

The recipe for the Pomegrante Chicken can be found on Dhaniya's website. The recipe for Bindi Bartha is taken from The Three Sisters Quick And Easy Indian CookBook.

Ingredients
500g okra, washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mango powder (I omitted this)

Method
Pat dry the okra with kitchen paper to remove any remaining moisture (it must be dried well or the okra will be slimy).
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds from the whole spices in a hot frying pan over low hear. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes until the cumin seeds begin to darken. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Remove to a bowl.
Ass all the ground spices and salt, to the bowl of roasted spices. Add 1 tbsp of the oil. Mix all the ingredients and spices well by stirring with a tsp or spatula.
Cut the tops off the okra and slit them neatly with a knife from about a thumb's length from the top to the bottom tip. Stuff the okra lengths on both sides with the spiced paste. Press together to close and place the okra on a plate.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry for 5-6 minutes, turning slowly to cook on all sides.
Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper. Serve hot as a vegetable dish with dal and rice.

The lovely people at Dhaniya are offering one reader a selection of their products. To be in with a chance of winning these products:
    xxx

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Littleton Arms Restaurant Review

I love eating out, there are many positives of eating out regularly. Eating out is a fabulous way of socialising with family and friends; diners often get to try a new style of cuisine or a new recipe and practically its a fab  way of not having to cook and do any washing up. I decided in 2015 that I will only review independent restaurants, so no review of chain restaurant to be featured  on this blog. 
In the heart of Staffordshire (and also very close to the border of West Midlands) lies this quintessential British country pub, The Littleton Arms. In fact, this picture perfect pub is well-known amongst my friends, acquaintances on social media and also my work colleagues.  I've been meaning to go to this restaurant for some time and after an initial get together at this pub was cancelled, I was pleased to be informed that one of the many Christmas do's that I attended were to be held there. I was instantly impressed with the outside of the building which was snowy white and located off the main road for easy access. The inside the pub is spacious and has a rustic country feel including wooden tables and chairs. The staff were friendly and were able to answer questions about the food served. A further positive of this restaurant is that the food that are locally sourced food in the South Staffordshire area. 
Littleton Arms.
I started off my meal with the obligatory fresh bread (£1) and marinated olives (£2) I decided to have nibbles instead of ordering a starter. There are a number of tempting starters for those who are interested (or who have room) such as The Hot and Sour Rabbit Broth (£6.50), Garlic and Theme Oyster Mushrooms (£6.25) and Seared Scallops £8.95).

The main courses are often the highlight of the meal for me, I ordered the pork belly (£16) which was served with crispy crackling, creamy mashed potatoes & red cabbage.  I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer size and meatiness of the pork belly. I have only used to eating shop brought pork belly but the slice that was served was so far superior in size and presentation. Most importantly, the taste was divine, tender, meaty and rich, this topped with the crispy and flavoursome crackling made this dish one of the best dishes I have eaten in 2014. The accompaniment to the pork belly were well suited: the mash was creamy, velvety and smooth and the red cabbage was sweet and was the perfect balance to the dish. If this dish does not take your fancy, there are other dishes to try such as Haddock and Chips (£12.95), Slow Braised Ox Cheek (£16.95) and 10 oz Rib Eye Steak (£21.95).

Pork Belly.

Pork Belly.
They say, "they've saved the best until last". I certainly think this saying is true when describing the dessert menu. As a firm chocoholic I ordered the Chocolate and Hazelnut tart served with panna cotta hazelnuts and a caramel sauce (£6). I loved the flavour of the chocolate, not too sweet and not bitter. The pastry was perfectly buttery and crisp and the pana cotta.  I loved the combination of the crisp pastry and the gooey chocolate served generously with the palette cleanser of the panna cotta. I also loved the portion size.  Other desserts which caught my eye include: Milk Chocolate Melting Sponge (£5.95) and Lemon Meringue Creme Brûlée (£5.95).



Positives: Delicious locally sourced food, generous portion sizes, friendly staff and reasonably priced.
Negatives: This pub gets incredibly busy so booking is advised.


Disclaimer: I reviewed this restaurant because I love eating out.

xxx

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hotel Chocolat Valentines Products, Review and Giveaway.

I love decadent, luxurious and gourmet chocolates. I think most people who like chocolate are always pleasantly delighted when they have the opportunity to sample the more luxurious kind of chocolates and thoroughly savours every bite. As it's Valentines Day in a few weeks time, it's almost a requirement of those giving a Valentines gift to their loved ones, to include some form of chocolate is as part of the present. Hotel Chocolat have a wonderful range of Romantic Gifts for Valentines Day which is perfect to give to your better half or event to treat yourself. 
You may have read my previous post about the Christmas Sleekster and the Sleekster's are back again, but this time the chocolates are heart shapes and entitled The Sleekster Valentines Selection. Once again, the sleek design of the box, beautiful mesh paper and stylish wording on the product, makes this chocolate stand out from the others. There are 27 heart shaped chocolates in The Sleekster Valentines Selection. The majority of the chocolates are topped with a pink or red colour, obviously colours associated with love. There are there different flavours in this selection of chocolates: Madagascan Coco Truffle, Passion Fruit Truffle and the Salted Almond Praline. I've sampled a few chocolates and particularly enjoyed the flavours of the Passion Fruit Truffle, exotic and sweet, retailing at £22, they are certainly reserved for a treat, but with beautiful designs and gorgeous flavours like this, these will put a huge smile on any chocoholics face.

Hotel Chocolat products

I also got to sample The Valentines Goody Bag which is not your average selection bag.  This bag is ideal if you want a variety of chocolates this Valentines day as there are a thoughtful selection of chocolate items. Retailing at £18, The Valentines Goody Bag contains white chocolate and passion fruit truffles, milk chocolate heart slabs, champagne truffles (my favourite) and a Valentines Day truffle trio.
The Sleekster Valentines Selection.

The Valentines Goody Bag


The lovely people at Hotel Chocoalt are offering one luck reader a The Sleekster Valentines Selction and The Valentines Goody Bag. To be in with a chance follow the bellow instructions and enter via the Rafflecopter.

  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter.
  • Leave a comment on my blog (THIS IS AN ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENT).
  • For additional entries, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, Google + and follow Hotel Chocolat on Twitter.
  • All entries will be checked and verified
  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.
  • The competition will run from 24.01.15 - 07.02.15
  • Winners will need to respond within 3 working days (to ensure that you will receive this for Valentines Day)
  • Hotel Chocolat will dispatch the items.
  • This competition is open to UK residents only. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received these products to review, as always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Apple, Coconut, Mango and Kiwi Crumble

I love old fashioned comforting puddings, such as Jam Rolly Polly, Sticky Toffee Pudding and of course Apple Crumble. These sort of dishes remind me of my school dinners at school and really was one of the highlights of school, following of course the main course. As my taste buds have developed from my school dinners days I have discovered flavour combinations which have become a firm favourite in my kitchen. There's nothing wrong with a humble apple crumble but I wanted to make an exotic twist to a classic and use fruits from around the world. The apple is the core and basis flavour, but even something so robust in flavours as the apple can always benefit from an exotic companion. I really enjoyed the subtle flavours of the desiccated coconut alongside the sweet flavour of the mango and the texture of the kiwi. The only thing I would do next time is, I would make a granola style topping as my crumble topping was rather fine (ok for me, but not for all of my family). I served my Apple, Coconut, Mango and Kiwi crumble with a generous portion of (Birdseye) rum sauce, which made this pudding a taste of sunshine in a bowl.
Here is how my crumble turned out:
Apple, Coconut, Mango & Kiwi Crumble.

Apple, Coconut, Mango & Kiwi Crumble.
Recipe for Apple, Coconut, Mango & Kiwi Crumble
Serves 6 (Greedy people)
750g cooking apple (around 4 Bramley apples)
1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned removed and sliced into bite-size pieces
3 kiwi, skin removed and cut in slices
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
4tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice


200g self raising flour
180 g butter, cold and diced into about 1 cm cubes. 
3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
tsp of cinnamon and tsp of nutmeg

Method
1) Start with the fruit, add 1 tbsp butter to a pan, add the fruit, granulated sugar followed by the lemon juice. Cook the fruits for 10 minutes or so on a low heat.

2) Whilst the fruits are cooking, put the flour in a bowl,  add the cubes or butter and spices. Using your fingers mix the mixture until it resembles porridge oats and add the light muscovado sugar. 
3) Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and place the crumble mixture in the freezer, this is to ensure it can 'firm up' for around 10 minutes.
4) Transfer the fruits to a pie dish, top with the crumble topping. Bake for around 25 minutes.

I'm entering my very fruity crumble to a couple of challenges
The Spice Trail Challenge  hosted by Vanesther from Bangers and Mash theme for this month is Temple Food, healthy food which include spices. My crumble contains a couple of fragrant spices and with all these fruits, must be on of the healthier puddings out there.


I'm also sharing this to one of my favourite blogging challenges AlphaBakes hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker   and Caroline from Caroline Makes. This month's theme is baking using the an ingredient with the letter L. As my fruity crumble contains lemon juice (essential for ensuring the fruits do not brown), I am cheekily entering my dish to this blogging challenge.


Enjoy 
xxx

Saturday, 17 January 2015

OXO Good Grips Products, Review.

As I've grown in my cooking repertoire and become more passionate about food, I've also discovered a range of kitchen products which helps cooking and baking a little easier. I'm always on the look out for kitchen products that can assist in my making my time in the kitchen a little easier, which is often needed in my mid-week meals. I recently discovered OXO and their Good Grips range and was thrilled when they asked me whether I would like to review some of their products. I, of course, said yes and am pleased to share with you my experience using these products. I was asked to chose a few products and as I have a more a savoury palette I chose items for cooking as opposed to baking (they have a large selection of products more suitable for bakers which were the Chopper, Omlettte Turner  and Salad Dressing Shaker.

Chopper 
With almost all of my savoury recipes, I have to use a chopped onion as this add flavour to the majority of dishes. I couldn't imagine cooking without using onions, but I do have one slight issue, I always cry when cutting onions due to the chemicals which is produced. This is where the chopper comes in, simple to use, all you do is place the onion in the container part of the chopper and press the soft knob of the chopper and a zig zag sharp blade comes down, which rotates and slices away. This ensures even chopping. Not only can be used for onions but for vegetables (as long as you slice in half or quarters) such as courgettes, aubergines and garlic. Retailing at £19, this has become a firm favourite in my household, it's sleek and compact design, alongside it not requiring to be plugged in or battery operated makes this easy to store.


Flip and Fold Omelette Turner
I chose this product, the silicone Flip and Fold Omelette Turner, not because I love omelettes (quite the country, I'm not a big fan of eggs) but I love pancakes. I thought that whilst this product is entitled "omelette turner", it will be equally suitable to turn pancakes or when making quesadillias. You see the pancakes I make fill the frying pan and I often find it difficult to flip them over without causing the mixture to spray over. The flexible head and edges is perfect for sliding the underneath pancakes or omelettes. I loved using this product and promptly used this when making my Elvis Presley Pancakes which I may add turned out to perfectly shaped. The thing that impressed me most, was the length of the omelette turner which again made this product easy to use and flip. Retailing at £8, this is a gadget which will be welcome in your chicken. 



Salad Dressing Shaker
Retailing at £12 ,I'm looking forward to spring and making vibrant colourful salads which will be drizzled with my homemade dressing. I am embarrassed to say that previous dressings have been made in a mug. Not so anymore with this handy salad dressing shaker. I have yet to use this product, but will be sharing a selection of salad recipes in the coming months, and will feature this product. This salad shaker is water tight as ingredients are added using the very wide opening, which in turn means it has no spillages. Also, what it great about this salad dressing shaker, is that it can make dressing, sauces and marinades. I love the sleek design of this product which can be beautifully served on the table. 


Positives
The products were efficient and effective. 
All products are dishwasher safe.
Loved the vibrant colours used for Omelette Turner, Salad Dressing Shaker
All products are reasonably priced.
Loved the sleek designs. 

Negatives
Chopper takes some getting used to, especially when dismantling.

Disclaimer:
I received a selection of products from OXO, I was not entitled to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
xxx

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Chicken Tropicana

I'm lucky enough to go on holiday twice a year, this is usually a weekend/city break and a longer holiday, usually to the Caribbean. Last year I visited the very cosmopolitan, vibrant, young city of Miami (as part of my Caribbean cruise) and could not leave this city without purchasing a cookbook (it's a new thing for me every time I go on holiday) which reflected on the area that I visited. Unfortunately as I was in Miami for 2 days, I did not sample, in my opinion traditional Floribbean food, the harmonious flavours of Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America, which is infectious as you walk along a street and hear Spanish or creole spoke, but luckily I was able to do this through this book.
A recipe that really caught my eye, was "Chicken Tropicana", just the name Tropicana sounds exotic, and for me, revokes memories of lying on Copacabana beach, Rio. The reasoning behind the name, I can only presume it is the Caribbean spiced chicken, mango, cooked in coconut milk and served with fluffy rice and the obligatory fried plantain. You see, with flavours like this, you could take yourself to Miami, The Caribbean and Latin American in one meal. This dish, was mouth watering, I personally think any meat seasoned well, cooked in coconut milk is an instant winner, but for me, what made this dish standout more so than others, was the combination of the savoury chicken with the delicate sweetness of the mango. Perfect for mid-week meal and to explore new flavour combinations. 
Here is how my Chicken Tropicana turned out:
Chicken Tropicana

Chicken Tropicana


Chicken Tropicana cooking. 

Miami Spice
Recipe for Chicken Tropicana

Serves 4
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 even-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger or fresh ginger
2 cups of coconut milk, or canned, unsweetened
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 cup dried fresh papaya
1 cup died fresh pineapple

1) Wash the chicken and blot dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Brown the chicken on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and pour off all the fat.
2) Melt the butter in the pan. Saute the shallots, garlic, and ginger until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the coconut milk, marmalade and salt and pepper.
3) Simmer the chicken, uncovered, until almost cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the fresh fruits and cook the chicken through, about 5 minutes more. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. 
4) Transfer the chicken to a bowl or platter and spoon the sauce and fruit over it. 

Serve with basmati rice and fried plantain.

Enjoy.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Elvis Presley Pancakes #LFHW

I'm not a huge fan of Elvis Presley or  a huge fan or rock n roll, but what I am a fan of, is an Elvis Presley's sandwich. For the majority of food lovers, you should be aware of this famous and which combination: bacon, peanut butter and banana as this is world renowned. Although the month of January is usually associated with eating more healthily, I wanted to treat myself and make a twist on this sandwich, but instead use a pancake.
Whilst I haven't been particularly healthy in this dish (and it is January after all), I am trying to be super resourceful with making the most of my ingredients and not wasting them, especially after an indulgent Christmas. My Elvis Presley pancakes include a fundamental ingredient which we commonly throw away: bananas, but although ripened, can be used to make a wonderful sweet dish. 
The Central England Co-Opperative have a wonderful incentive for the month of January, entitled Love Food Hate Waste to help us to use the food items we most commonly throw away and instead use them to create delicious recipes. I hope my Elvis Presley pancakes will inspire you to use up some your ripened and battered bananas.
Here is how my Elvis Presley pancakes turned out:
Elvis Presley Pancakes

Elvis Presley Pancakes



Elvis Presley Pancakes
Recipe for my Elvis Presley pancakes 
Makes 2 (Incredibly large) pancakes
300ml milk
2 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4tbsp peanut butter
2 bananas, sliced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 rashers of bacon. 
maple syrup for drizzling

Method
Add the flour, sugar and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl and combine. Make a well in the centre and in a mixing jug, whisk the milk and eggs together and pour into the well. Mix the ingredients (ideally using a wooden spoon) and ensure that all the ingredients are in-cooperated. 
Heat a non-stick pan and a griddle pan, add 1 tbsp oil pour enough batter in the pan to make a large pancake. When bubbles begin to form, your pancake is ready to be turned over. Repeat to make the second pancake. Cook the bacon under a grill, ensuring they are nice and crispy.  In the griddle pan, add 1 tbsp oil and add the slices bananas until the bananas become golden and caramelised. 
To serve, top the pancakes with the bacon and caramelised banana and a good tsp of peanut butter and maple syrup.

Enjoy
xx

Disclaimer: I was given a voucher by The Central Co-operative Limited.
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