Monday, 28 September 2015

GBBO Week 8 - Mokatine Eclairs

How quickly does this series of Bake Off seem to be going? Eight weeks in already and yet there's still so many bake categories that could come up! I have missed the enriched dough week from last year, perhaps it will make a return next year?

This week was Patisserie, never one of my strong points, but I was determined to give it a go. I did like the idea of the cream horns, but after making puff pastry in an earlier week I needed a different challenge. Not being able to decide between Mokatines or an eclair tower I decided to blend them together to make Mokatine eclairs - coffee creme patisserie, encased in a choux pastry, topped with coffee fondant icing and crushed walnuts.

A side note before the recipe - The original choux recipe that I used suggested baking at 160C. This meant my choux didn't really puff up, instead making more delicate fingers. To get a bigger eclair bake at the temperature stated in my amended recipe below;

Mokatine Eclairs - Makes approximately 15 eclairs

For the Choux pastry
250ml water
100g Stork with Butter
Pinch of salt
200g Strong white flour
4 whole eggs

For the Coffee Creme Patisserie
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half
100g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
50g cornflour
50g Stork with Butter
2 tsp Coffee Extract

For the icing topping
100g Fondant Icing sugar
1tsp Coffee Extract
3 tbs water
Chopped walnuts


Preheat your oven to 200C Gas 6. On baking parchment draw lines 12cm long and 5cm apart. Turn over and place onto a baking sheet. You will need to spread the eclairs over two or more sheets depending on size. Set out all your ingredients as you will need to add things quickly.

Place the water, Stork (or alternative) and salt into a large saucepan and heat over a medium heat until it boils. As soon as it is boiling, quickly pour in the flour and immediately beat with either a wooden spoon or an electric whisk until you have a smooth ball of paste that leaves the saucepan sides clean.

Transfer to a stand mixer and slowly add the eggs, one at a time. Mix on a low speed until each egg is incorporated, before adding another. Continue to mix until you have a thick glossy paste. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large holed nozzle.

Pipe onto your paper using the lines as a guide.

Bake for 10 minutes, then increase the heat to 220C Gas 7 for a further 15-20 minutes until the buns are crisp and golden and hold their shape. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Next, put the milk & vanilla into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. In a mixing boil whisk together the eggs and sugar until light & fluffy. Tip in the cornflour and combine well.

When the milk is boiling tip into the sugar mix in one go, through a sieve to catch the vanilla pod. Whisk together to blend and transfer back into the milk saucepan.

Cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes until thickened, stirring continuously. Transfer to your stand mixer and whisk on a high speed until cooled completely. Whisk in your Stork with Butter and coffee extract, taste to check coffee levels and whisk again for at least two minutes. Transfer to a piping bag with a narrow nozzle fitted.

With the tip of a nozzle or a sharp knife piece each eclair three times. Pip in your Creme Pat gently. If any escapes, wipe away with a butter knife. Once all have been filled set aside in the fridge to set for 20 minutes.

Make up your fondant icing by adding the coffee essence to the icing sugar and slowly adding water in small amounts until you have a thick icing that is liquid but still holds a peak for 3 seconds. Pipe over your eclairs or spread using a butter knife. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top.

I was kindly sent a voucher to try out new Stork with Butter on a recipe of my choice. This produced a tasty, evenly baked product that was as good as bakes made previously with traditional butter and I would happy use this again.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

River Cottage - A piece of heaven in Devon

I was recently one of the lucky bloggers selected by Foodies100 to spend the day at River Cottage, made famous by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I knew the day would be interesting, but I didn't realise how inspiring and engaging it would be.

I'm lucky enough to live only a few hours from River Cottage HQ, a little different to Foodie Quine who have the mammoth journey from Aberdeen to make! On route I picked up my two newest blogging friends, Grace of Eats Amazing and Sara-Jane of Keep Up With the Jones Family. The car ride to and from River Cottage was like a blogging session in itself - these ladies know their stuff and I learnt so much from our chats!

Pulling into the car park we had a few minutes to say some more hellos, gather up our cameras and climb up into a big trailer for the bumpy ride down through the valley to the instantly recognisable farmhouse. I think the fact that there was still some lingering morning mist made our first glance of the farm even more special.

After breakfast of pastries and omelette bites we split into our groups to start our sessions. I was in the red group and was excited to see that Annie Spratt (Mammasaurus), a blogger I've long admired was also in my group. Our first session was learning brilliant styling and photo tips from Lucy Heath (Capture by Lucy). I immediately took my camera off full auto mode and vowed to learn how to take pictures on manual settings!

By this point the sun was out in beautiful early Autumn glory, perfect for our tour around the farm and gardens with Will Livingstone, Head Gardener. He told us so much about the farm and methods they employ that can easily be used in our own home gardens and the passion he and his team have was so evident.

All this walking and chatting was making me hungry so I took little persuading to head into the dining room for our lunch. A table plan stopped us eating in our usual groups of friends, so I put my shyness to the back of my mind and spoke to everyone around me.

Our lunch was made using ingredients reared, grown and foraged at the farm. Beautifully aged Dexter beef, slow cooked and served in a wholemeal ravioli on a bed of vegetable ragu with bread baked that hour and seasoned corn on the cob.

A fennel infused meringue, damson plums and a vanilla and coffee ice cream, served with salted apple caramel.

The doors to the kitchen had been open all morning and we were all encouraged to come and watch, take photos and ask questions.

Our final session of the day was a practical one. Gill Meller, Group Head Chef helped us make soda bread using spelt flour, flavoured with cheese, herbs, apples and blackberries that we had picked ourselves. As the last group of the day our foraging skills were really put to the test, but we all managed to find enough! The real magic of this session was making rolled butter using only double cream and flavouring it with peppery nasturtium and marigold petals.

All too soon it was time to climb back aboard the trailer to take us back to our cars. I like everyone else looked back down the valley, until River Cottage disappeared from view and we were back in our normal day to day life again.

I learnt so much at River Cottage HQ that one post could never cover it all. Over the next few weeks I will be doing further posts on the things I learnt - food styling tips, organic growing & making your own bread & butter.

Thank you Foodies100 & River Cottage HQ for putting on such a special day for us all - this is one day I'll never forget!

Monday, 21 September 2015

GBBO Week 7 - Hot Crust Pork, Chicken & Egg Pie

Oh Matt, Matt, Matt...from Star Baker to Sent Home in one short week. I'll miss him on the show, as I've said before he seemed the most realistic of home bakers...most week's there was at least one bake he had never heard off and he flew by the seat of his pants on more than one occasion, but he did it with good humour and a decent dose of reality!

Another new category this week saw Victorian Dishes in the spotlight. My plans for a lovely few relaxing evenings of baking while Sion was on a course were quickly squashed when our oven decided to blow it's element. After a number of frantic calls the oven was back up and running the afternoon before we went on holiday for a week! My Chocolate tart from last week was first in the oven on the Friday evening and a 6.30am alarm call was set for the Saturday morning to get my bake for this week cooked!

None of us were a fan of fruit cake and transporting a sponge finger and jelly creation to Dorset was a recipe for disaster, so a nice solid pie was called for! My Grandmother used to make a beautiful bacon & egg pie so this is my homage to her.

Hot crust Pork, Chicken & Egg Pie

For the filling

300g sausage meat
About 1 tsp of chopped fresh thyme leaves
Generous amount of salt & black pepper

250g cooked ham hock, cut into small cubes
250g cooked chicken breast
4 medium eggs, hard boiled

For the Pastry
450g plain flour
100g strong white flour
75g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
100g lard
200ml water
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 6
Grease a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin with a little extra lard then line with baking parchment that overhangs the sides.

Prepare your fillings. Combine the sausage meat with thyme & seasoning and mix well. Cook a little in a frying pan to check seasoning levels and add more if necessary. 
Take a thin slice of egg off each end so that they will sit alongside each other with no gap.
Set the fillings to one side while you make the pastry.

Combine the two flour types and rub in the butter lightly with your finger tips. Add all other patry ingredients into a saucepan and gently heat until the lard has melted and the mixture is almost boiling.

Create a well in your flour, pour on the water/fat mix and stir with a spoon. Once it is cool enough to handle tip onto your work surface and knead into a dough.

Working quickly roll out two thirds and use to line the loaf tin. leaving any excess hanging over the edges. Roll out the final third to a large enough piece to cover the top and cover with a layer of clingfilm to hold warmth.

Put half the sausage meat mix into the tin, then layer thinly with chicken & ham. Place the eggs end to end and use more chicken & ham on the sides to hold the eggs in place. Finish with a final layer of sausage meat.

Brush the pastry edges with egg yolk and cover with the pastry top. Trim & crimp the edges.

Decorate the top with pastry shapes and use more egg as a wash over the top. Finally make three steam holes, before baking for 30 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for a further hour.
Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning on it's side and easing the pie out.

Despite the sides falling apart, it was a really tasty pie - I think Gran would have enjoyed it! 

Next week - Patisserie!

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Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO

Monday, 14 September 2015

Cooking with Cervezas Alhambra Reserva 1925 - WIN your own supply!

I have two loves; food and travelling. The travelling at the moment is pretty limited to the UK which means my food experiences cover the whole world! Sushi, thai curries and pizzas made with hand stretched dough immediately transport me into the tastes and smells of their country of origin, but for a long leisurely lunch or dinner with friends I'm usually drawn to something of Spanish origin.

A big pan of paella, full of inviting seafood and succulent chicken, or a tortilla with soft potato and spicy chorizo...good hearty help-yourself food with fresh, light flavours mean there is something comforting and relaxing about Spanish cuisine.

I was lucky enough to recently be sent a beautiful presentation box of Alhambra Reserva 1925 beer. This has been inspired by the first beers that were produced by Cervezas Alhambra by their factory in Granada, Spain in 1925. This beer is a beautiful golden colour, with a deeper hop taste than the mass produced Spanish lagers I've drank before, similar in taste to a British pale ale.

The dark green bottle is elegantly understated, without labelling, letting the artisan manufacturing process and 90-year old Alhambra name speak for itself.

We of course sampled some of the beer, ice cold, served in my very special limited edition glasses and it was a beer to be savoured. Because Alhambra Reserva 1925 has a full bodied flavour I think it's best to enjoy with food and is a beautiful ingredient in lots of Spanish inspired recipes.

Cervezas Alhambra invited me to create a recipe using Alhambra Reserva 1925 and share with you all - here is my Beer braised Chicken and Chorizo traybake

Beer Braised Chicken and Chorizo traybake - Serves 4-6

10 skin on chicken thighs
1 tbsp plain flour
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

750g baby new potatoes, left whole unless larger size
150g chopped smoked pancetta
1 chorizo ring, skin removed and sliced into 5mm slices
One 330ml bottle of Cervezas Alhambra Reserva 1925 

250ml good quality chicken stock
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs, woody stems removed and leaves finely chopped.
6 spring onions (scallions) chopped into 2cm lengths
6 vine ripened salad tomatoes cut into wedges

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas mark 6.

In a large bowl combine the flour and paprika and mix together. Take 3-4 chicken thighs at a time and drop into the bowl and coat with the flour mix. Heat half of the oil in a large flameproof heavy roasting tin over a high heat and fry off the chicken thighs for 5-10 minutes until brown all over. Set aside and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and add the potatoes into the hot oil carefully, cooking for 5 minutes until they are starting to brown. Add the pancetta and chorizo, turn the temperature down to a medium heat and cook for another 5 minutes until the chorizo starts to release it's oil.

Return your chicken to the pan and pour the beer over the thighs. Bring to the boil and cook until the liquid reduces by half.

Remove from the heat and add the stock, thyme, spring onions & tomatoes.

Bake for one hour until the chicken is cooked through. sprinkle with extra thyme and serve with crusty bread, Alhambra Reserva 1925 and friends!

You can win your own special edition of 2 x 75cl Cervezas Alhambra Reserva 1925. What would be your perfect tapa for pairing with Alhambra Reserva 1925? Comment below and you could win a heritage set of Alhambra Reserva 1925 beer to enjoy with your own tapa creations.

The winner will be choosen by the Alhambra team after the closing date of 21st September 2015 and will be looking for the most innovative ideas so get thinking!

I was sent a presentation case of Alhambra 1925 for the purpose of this recipe post.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

GBBO Week 6 - Chocolate, orange and pear frangipane

Finally Matt came good! I don't think anyone was any more surprised than himself at how perfect Pastry week was for him.

For me the week has been filled with stress and drama involving broken ovens, re-doing budgets and organising the house before our holiday. Luckily it all worked out in the end although there was little time for perfect photography (next week will be the same!) but I managed to complete yet another Bake Off challenge.

I've made puff pastry in an earlier challenge for my galettes and as lovely Greek cheese pastries looked, I couldn't justify making a batch up with no-one else to eat them! I have made frangipane before, these individual bakewell tarts went down well I have to say, so I had to up my game somewhat if I was going to stick with frangipane this week. 

I've always like the idea of flavoured pastry, so I decided to make up some sweet chocolate shortcrust pastry and combine the chocolate flavouring with classic orange and sweet pears. The original recipe that I based this on, suggested baking for an hour in total, but by slicing the pears first cooking time can be reduced, lessening the chance of a burnt base.

Chocolate, Orange & Pear Frangipane Tart

For the Pate du Sucree (sweet shortcrust pastry)

135g salted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
4 large egg yolks
250g plain flour
50g cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, and beat in the egg yolks until well combined.

Sift together the flour & cocoa, add to the butter mix and mix together until a dough forms. Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead until your dough is smooth.

Wrap in cling flim and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use. Alternatively, flatten into a large disc, place in a ziplock bag and freeze until needed.

For the frangipane

150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
50g self-raising flour
3 medium eggs
Zest of 1 large orange

To decorate

Liquid chocolate sauce, such as Choc Shot
2 firm conference pears, peeled, cored and cut lengthwise into quarters
1 tbsp lemon juice
Flaked almonds
2 tbsp apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

Start by making the frangipane paste by putting all the frangipane ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth and fluffy.

Slice your pear halves horizontally along the length of the pears, not quite all the way through so it holds it shape. Place gently in a bowl and rub over lemon juice to stop them browning.

Roll out your pastry on a floured surface to approximately a 3mm thickness and large enough to overhang your flan tin. Using your rolling pin, lift your pastry carefully into your case and press firmly into the fluted edges. Prick the base with a fork, cover with baking parchment and weigh down with dry rice or baking beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes, then carefully lift off the paper and rice/beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. Once baked blind carefully trim any excess pastry from your tart edging.

Spoon your frangipane paste into a piping bag and pipe into your case. pour a thin line of chocolate sauce around your tart and use a cocktail stick to create a marbled effect.

Gently place your pear halves into the tart.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Pull out the shelf holding the tart a little way and scatter flaked almonds over it. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C Gas 4 and bake for a further 20-30 minutes until nicely risen and the filling feels firm to the touch.

Gently warm your apricot jam and brush over your tart as a glaze. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

Next Week - Victorian Classics

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

ROKA Aldwych review

Last month we went to London for a long weekend in celebration of my birthday. This has turned into something of a tradition now and we always try to book dinner in a special restaurant while we're there.

When I explored Taste of London earlier in the year I was seriously impressed by the offerings from ROKA and knew that Sion would love the Japanese menu just as much as me.

ROKA headed by Rainer Beker currently has restaurants in four London locations, starting first with Charlotte Street, opened in 2004, Canary Wharf in 2009 and Mayfair & Aldwych both opened in 2014. As well as serving a full range of sushi & sashimi sharing dishes at the heart of each restaurant is the robata grill in full view of the diners.

ROKA Aldwych Japanese restaurant interior

We booked into ROKA Aldwych for a 7pm booking and on arrival were immediately taken to our table. The dining room had a mix of small tables, larger group tables and seating around the much famed robata grill. One whole wall had lit jars set into it and as the evening progressed these were gradually dimmed. 

Our waitress for the evening spent time going through all the menu options, not only explaining the various groupings of foods but also her own personal favourites. There was no hurried explanations and she spent all of he time crouched down at our eye level - a small touch, but one that was so much more friendly and approachable than having someone tower over you.

We of course started by ordering a bottle of wine from the well thought out listings and settled on a fresh white wine around the £35 range. Our waitress poured our first glass and then expertly topped our glasses with just the right amount to make the bottle last for the whole of our meal. We also had table water.

Living in Southampton we have limited sushi options and with such variety on offer the sharing dishes made up the basis of our meal. We had seven dishes - black cod, crab & crayfish dumplings, seared scallops, wagyu beef tartar on a nori cracker, soft shelled crab, vegetable tempura, sea bream sashimi & tuna california rolls. Each one had a different taste, texture and accompaniment, keeping the meal fresh and lively. We ordered two to three dishes at a time and they were quickly prepared and presented to us.

ROKA gyoza japanese dumplings

ROKA seared scallops japanese style

ROKA wagyu beef tartare japanese food

soft shelled crab ROKA japanese food

sea bream sashimi ROKA Aldwych London dining

I was lucky enough to win a voucher for a sharing dessert platter following Taste of London and what a platter it was! A perfect mix of sorbet, fresh exotic fruit, and two warm puddings meant there was more than enough for us both.

Japanese dessert platter ROKA Aldwych London
We kept the "proper" camera at the hotel...blurriness comes from using a camera phone and celebratory drinking!! 

Had we not had the voucher I think we would have been happy with just sorbet. Our sharing dishes had satisfied both our taste buds and our stomachs, without leaving either of us overfed - a careful balancing act! 

Our total bill (excluding the sharing dessert platter) came to £130. All ROKA locations offer a lunch & pre-theatre menu at £27 for two courses or £31 for three courses, there is also a 10 course tasting menu at £58 per person.

We left after two hours of the most beautiful food and attentive staff to wander along Southbank on a beautiful summers night - one of the most enjoyable meals either of us have ever had.

I was not asked to write this review, all food and drink (excluding my prize voucher) was paid for by us. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

GBBO Week 5 - Dairy free chocolate confetti cake

Week 5 of "Bake Off" and it's a completely new category - free from. I really enjoyed this week's episode. We're starting to really see those bakers who understand the interaction of their ingredients and flavours versus those who concentrate on the asthetics of their bake and perhaps ignore if their bake actually works! I'm still rooting for Matt, watching Paul having to swallow his sample of carrot cake, before declaring it "really good" was funny to watch - and where did Nadiya come from? She had such a good round, Star Baker was well deserved!

This week as my "Free From" entry I've made a dairy free cake. It was my brother's 40th birthday and for me producing a cake worthy of a 40th celebration would have been impossible without sugar, but only mildly tricky without I took the easy option! This recipe has a number of steps, but hopefully I've written it in a methodical way to make it as easy as possible.

Here is my Signature Bake for this week - Dairy Free Chocolate Confetti Cake

dairy-free cake chocolate confetti

dairy free chocolate layer cake

Dairy Free Chocolate Confetti Cake

For the Cake

400g Plain Flour
50g Cornflour

65g unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5tsp salt

300ml soya milk
1.25tsp white wine vinegar

480ml vegetable or rapeseed oil
450g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1.5tsp vanilla extract

2tsp sodium bicarbonate
2.5tsp white wine vinegar

For the frosting

250g vegetable fat such as Pure or Trex
60ml soya milk
2tsp vanilla extract
600g icing sugar

Hundreds & thousands to decorate (I used 2 small tubs)

Preheat your oven to 175C and line the bottom of 3 9-inch sandwich tins with baking parchment.

Start by sieving together the plain flour and cornflour into a large bowl. Re-sieve this into a second bowl and repeat once more (3 sieves in total to add air and distribute the cornflour evenly). Sieve in the cocoa and salt, using a metal spoon gently fold through to combine.

In a jug add the soya milk and small quantity of white wine vinegar together and set to one side for a few minutes, (this will replace buttermilk in a traditional dairy recipe).

Place the oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on a medium speed with an electric whisk until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time and finish with the vanilla.

Add half of your flour mix and beat until combined, followed by half of your soya milk mix. Repeat with the final batch of flour and milk.

In a small dish add the remaining vinegar to the sodium bicarbonate (this will immediately start to fizz), stir quickly to combine and add this batter to your cake batter beating straight away for 10 seconds.

Divide the batter into the three tins and bake until an inserted skewer comes out clean (30-40 minutes). Let the cakes cool in the tin for 20 minutes then remove, turn upside down, remove the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.

While your cakes are cooling make your frosting. Cut the Trex into small pieces, add the soya milk and villa and combine until soft (I used the dough hooks on my electric hand mixer). Gradually add the sugar until fully incorporated. Split the icing into two bowls, one with slightly more in than the other, and refridgerate until needed.

Once the cakes have fully cooled, use the smaller quantity of icing to sandwich your layers together and cover the outside of your cake, place the cake on a cake board and chill for half an hour before continuing.

Taking the second bowl of icing, use a palette knife or dough scraper to add a thicker layer of icing all over the cake. Work in a little area at a time and clean your knife regularly to stop crumbs mixing into the top layer. Clean any excess icing off your board. Make a clean edge around the top of your cake and chill again for 30 minutes.

Lay grease-proof paper over your work surface and sit your cake on an upturned bowl to get some height. Take a small quantity of hundreds & thousands in your hand and gently press into the icing. Repeat all over. Gather up any that have fallen onto the grease-proof paper regularly and reuse. This video will give you a demonstration (not me!)

Then you get to sit back and enjoy a slice of your hard work!

40th confetti birthday cake

easy to decorate confetti birthday cake

Next week - Pastry (and I'm thanking my lucky stars I've already made puff pastry this series!)

(I've also entered this recipe as my Denby Cake Off entry for this year's competition - details can be found by following this link)

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Free From