Tuesday, 20 October 2015

#TasteofNorway Farikal Recipe & Giveaway with Inntravel

You may have seen recently on my Instagram feed that I was wondering what cooking challenge to take on now that Bake Off is over for another year. I've decided to choose a recipe at random every week or so from my big cookery book collection, the only rules being it has to be a different book from the previous recipe and it has to be something that I haven't cooked before.

It was perfect timing then when Inntravel got in touch with me and asked if I would like to try out a traditional Norwegian recipe. My knowledge of Norway is pretty much limited to knowing that Norway is cold and they eat a lot of fish, so I was curious to learn about the national dish of Farikal.

Farikal (pronounce 'forrycoal') is traditionally served in autumn and is primarily lamb or mutton cooked with cabbage and peppercorns. The traditional recipe suggests shoulder, neck or shank to be used and it is served with boiled potatoes.

I thought I would keep the core of my Farikal recipe the same, but change it slightly to suit our dietary requirements (and my love of mash!)

Farikal - Serves 2 with leftovers

600g lamb leg steaks (with bone in situ)
50g plain flour seasoned with salt & pepper
50g butter
400ml water
1 beef stock cube
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns (I used pink for a subtle flavour)
250g kale with large stalks removed
salt to taste
fresh parsley

Coat the lamb with the seasoned flour and set to one side.
Using a large pan that has a lid, melt the butter and seal the lamb, a few steaks at a time.

Return all the steaks to the pan, add the water, stock, bay leaf, peppercorn and kale and boil for 25 minutes.

Just before serving drain some of the cooking juice into a smaller pan and boil vigorously to thicken.

Serve with mashed potatoes, carrots, fresh parsley & redcurrant jelly.

I was really surprised at how flavoursome this dish was, by using thinner cuts of lamb and pre-cut kale it was on the table in under 30 minutes, so a perfect mid-week supper dish.

Inntravel would like to offer you the chance to learn more about the Norwegian cuisine and are offering my readers the chance to win a £40 voucher with Scandikitchen by entering this simple Rafflecopter giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

This is a collaborative post with Inntravel, specialists in worldwide slow holidays.

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Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Perfect Dinner Party (almost!)

We've been renting our home now for over 18 months and we're well and truly settled in now, Aside from the cupboard under the stairs storing lots of books, everything had found a place and every room has a use. We chose this house because of one room - the conservatory. Our downstairs rooms are all quite small so the conservatory actually has the biggest footprint, and of course it's beautifully light and airy. We brought lots of new furniture when we moved too, but the conservatory has the dining table from Sion's childhood home as well as a Welsh dresser his father owned so it holds a lot of memories.

The only problem is that most of the time it's just Sion & myself eating and we commit the cardinal sin of eating on our laps in front of the TV most nights. During the summer we had lots of people round, but we tended to push the table to one side and use it more as a corridor to the garden, than long, lazy lunches around the table.

So when Ocean Finance got in touch with me and told me about their campaign to get the nation's unloved dining rooms the centre of people's attention again I was more than happy to get involved.

Their idea was for each blogger to host a Come Dine With Me style dinner with family and friends and then blog about it...sounds simple huh?!

Of course living with a rugby mad man and hosting this dinner during October meant there could only be one theme - The Rugby World Cup. I like using themes to help decide on menu choices, but I didn't want to make people feel uncomfortable by asking that they dress up, so I kept it subtle! re-purposed (brought home from a pub) rugby ball coasters & a rugby themed printed menu were about the extent of my theme, but I think it was enough!

So onto my menu - we started with Welsh Rarebit (posh cheese on toast), followed by Coq au Vin pie and finished with New Zealand's national dessert Chocolate Pavlova. The joy about all of these dishes was that they could be prepared in advance and just finished off once people arrived, although I still managed to burn my toast a little and my gravy didn't really thicken!

Every good party needs entertainment and ours was no different. We made sure there was background music throughout the dinner and we took a break between the main course and dessert to play a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. For anyone who hasn't come across this game it's a simple card game where you use your cards to make the funniest sentence or awnser to a question. The fun comes in that some (most) of the cards are adult themed, or can be very un-PC in the right context!

We had so much fun sat around the table, giggling over our answers that we carried on playing and eating dessert at the same time.

Of course, this being in the Come Dine With Me style, meant my guests had to score me! So how did I do?....

Go me! More importantly though it re-ignited our love of eating properly up at the table. Eating becomes a pleasure, a time to enjoy, sit back and relax in the company around you. Our table has now been moved firmly into the middle of the room, pride of place, ready for the next dinner to enjoy!

What would be your perfect dinner party? You can read more on how to plan the perfect dinner party here

This is a collaborative post with Ocean Finance, who kindly covered the cost of my dinner party ingredients.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

GBBO Final - Victoria Sandwich Showstopper

How is it that the final of GBBO came so quickly?! Thankfully The Apprentice will take it's place on Wednesday nights and rather than dreaming of being an amazing baker, I'll instead dream of swanning around London in a sharp business suit!

I couldn't let the final go though without a real showstopper of a final bake so I could only really go for the "British Classic" round and what could be more classic than a Victoria Sandwich? Very kindly Tesco offered to send me a voucher to cover the cost of some of my ingredients, so there was no excuse - I had to go large!

The victoria sponge is simple in it's method and decoration, which meant it would be a challenge to turn it into a cake worthy of a Showstopper title! I wanted to push myself to try a new technique so I made macarons too and decorated them to look like mini victoria sponges. I also made some strawberry crisps and chocolate leaves as well as my own strawberry jam. I decided to go all out and make it a three tier cake, because if you can't do it for the final of GBBO, when can you?!!

For the basic cake recipe I used equal weights of butter, sugar, beaten eggs and self raising flour, with a dash of vanilla extract for added flavour. Cream the butter & sugar together until light & fluffy then add the eggs little by little, whisking until incorporated each time. Finally add the vanilla extract & flour and fold in until fully combined. Bake in a 160C oven for 20-25 minutes. I think all in I used about 800g of the four ingredients to make my three tiers, but it all blurred into confusion by the 3rd bake!

My strawberry jam used 300g of chopped strawberries to 150g of caster sugar. Brought to the boil and then boiled vigorously for 10 minutes, although despite leaving it to cool it didn't really set! My cream filling was 300ml of whipped double cream with a tsp of vanilla essence & 25g icing sugar folded through.

To make my macarons I used this simple recipe from Delicious Magazine. I filled them with a layer of raspberry jam and white chocolate ganache.

Strawberry crisps were made by slicing strawberries, laying on a non stick baking sheet and sprinkling with icing sugar. They were then baked in a low oven (100C) for 1 hour until dried through.

Finally bramble leaves were coated with melted white chocolate, coloured with green gel and left to harden, before the leaves were peeled away.

I'm so pleased with how this turned out. I love the simplicity of it, while being proud that so many different elements all came together.

It's been an absolute joy to take part in The Great Bloggers Bake Off again this year and I'll most definitely be back again next year! Massive thanks to Jenny for keeping us all on track and all the co-hosts that helped take the strain!

Special thanks also to Tesco for very kindly sending me a voucher to cover the costs of my ingredients. You can find lots of recipes on Tesco.com/realfood

Linking up with

Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Dorsett Shepherds Bush - My thoughts

How has it been almost two months since we went to London for my birthday?! It's become something of a tradition that we always head to London for the night around my birthday. I love London, the buzz and constant activity makes it exciting and invigorating. My mum was a Londoner and moved back up when I was seven so I have memories of going up on the train to visit her and my relatives. Unfortunately I've lost touch with them all now, but there's always a sense of being that little bit closer to them whenever I visit.

As this trip was for my birthday Sion took responsibility for booking our hotel and wow the boy did good! We always look on a number of travel websites and are registered to Secret Escapes, which is where this gem showed up - The Dorsett Shepherds Bush

A short five minute stroll from Shepherds Bush tube station this 317 roomed hotel is in a converted Grade 2 listed 1920s cinema, overlooking a tree lined green.

Dorsett Shepherds Bush Lobby

The influence of it's Asian owners is obvious to see in the beautiful, calming interior of the public areas. We arrived early and asked if we could leave our bags and check in later. Elina, the receptionist who helped us, very kindly told us that our room was already available and that we had been upgraded to a deluxe room - and what a room it was! Being on the top floor and a corner room, the views from the two walls of windows were stunning. Once you enter a bedroom there are more chic touches, with gold furnishings and oriental prints and accessories. Our room in particular was light and airy, with the aircon set to just the right temperature for an August day in London!

Dorsett shepherds Bush Exec Room

Dorsett Shepherds Bush Room work area

Dorsett Shepherds Bush lamp

Our room had a beautiful bathroom attached with a separate bath & shower cubicle. Unfortunately the design of the shower door meant that it leaked quite badly, but the thick bath mat shopped the floor from getting slippery. The bathroom had plenty of marble top space for you to leave your toiletries out and there were more than enough towels for us both.

It was almost a shame that we didn't spend that much time in the hotel, we had so many planned activities for the two days that we were in the city. One thing we did make time for was happy hour (5-7pm) cocktails in the Jin lounge, Luis poured two stunning cocktails for us, I had the sweet Dorsett Duchess, while Sion went for a gin based Smoking Negroni. This wet our appetites and I'm not ashamed to admit to returning the following night to try more! Whether it was the later time slot or the relaxing effect of the evening, I spent most of my time unelegantly slouched in my seat, looking up into the stunning gold atrium. At night gentle up lights really show off the space (little tip - even room numbers overlook the atrium, while odd numbers have external views)

Breakfast was taken in the Pictures dining restaurant, that runs along the side of the hotel. We arrived quite late in the service but there was still an excellent selection of continental breakfast and hot buffet items. Sion was especially impressed to see that Chinese congee and noodles were available too! The Dorsett also has the Shikumen restaurant serving Asian cuisine for lunch and dinner, although we unfortunately had prior plans so didn't eat here ourselves.

We loved our stay at the Dorsett Shepherds Bush, we felt it was good value for money and while not a central London location, it was perfectly placed for Holland Park, Notting Hill and Westfield Shopping Centre. We'll definitely be back!

We paid for our stay and all food and drink ourselves and were not asked to write a review, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.

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Monday, 5 October 2015

GBBO Week 9 - Chocolate Pavlova

How quickly have these past nine weeks flown by? I feel very proud that I've baked along every week so far - sometimes by the skin of my teeth! As well as watching Bake Off for baking inspiration I've also found plenty of new blogs to read and enjoy. I know we get a little longer for our final bake week so I thought I'd say thanks ladies for all the fab recipes you post week after week...and of course huge thanks for Jenny, not only organising and keeping us all up to date, but for all of her incredible work behind the scenes with brands - you deserve a golden mixing spoon all of your own!

I don't know how I feel about this week's Bake Off. I think Flora was always in danger of going, but Paul seemed particularly scathing in her bakes - even breaking apart her showstopper to prove a point. It almost seemed like he was bullying her a little and made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I'm not sure what he would have thought of my entry this week!!

I used chocolate pastry in week 6 for my chocolate, orange & pear frangipane and I had a particularly busy week so time was in very short supply. I had already arranged to have friends over for a "Come Dine With Me" style dinner so I tweaked my dessert to fit (loosely) into this week's category. Luckily Jenny has let me use this as an entry!

I used this BBC Food recipe as a basis for my meringue but tweaked it to the recipe found below.

Chocolate & raspberry pavlova

For the Meringue
3 medium egg whites or 6 tablespoons of prepared egg whites (I use Two Chicks)
175g caster sugar
25g dark chocolate
2tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the topping
350ml double cream
75g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod, deseeded
300g fresh raspberries
Chocolate Sauce (I used ChocShot)
Grated dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4, line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated and the meringue is glossy.

Using a metal spoon fold in the chocolate, cocoa & vinegar. Spoon the meringue onto your baking tray and flatten the middle slightly.

Put into your oven and turn the temperature down to 150C/Gas 2 straight away. Bake for 45 minutes then leave to cool in a cooling rack.

Whip the cream and icing sugar together until you have soft peaks, then fold in the vanilla seeds and a third of the raspberries.

Drizzle your chocolate sauce over the meringue base, then spoon over the cream. Top with the remaining raspberries and grate chocolate to serve.

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Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO