Monday, 21 November 2011

Chocolate and Orange Cakes


Out of all the baking I've done so far this has been the hardest. I thought cup cakes were meant to be easy. The one thing you definitely need when using this recipe is to own a food processor. If you use a hand blender it gets very messy, in fact when I finished I looked more like a child who had just finished a flour fight. Just a shame I don't have enough room in my kitchen to have one! Also I’d never made a cup cake, had never made butter cream or knew how to do piping. So I knew it would be a challenge. Can you tell I've never had children? :-) As with all the other baking I've done this recipe comes from the Great British Bake Off “How to Cook”.
RRP £25
The air went very blue a few times whilst trying to make these cakes and the end results were okay but not the best baking I've done. It does give me hope for future baking but I won't be doing any more cakes until I get a food processor – Hey Santa get the message! I guess I'll have to make room in my kitchen somehow.

  • 50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) broken up into pieces
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • 120ml full fat milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 unwaxed orange (although I used waxed and it seemed ok)
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • orange chocolate for decoration

For the butter cream
  • 4 tbsp full fat milk
  • 50g white chocolate broken up into pieces
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 500g icing sugar, sieved

1x12 hole muffin tray lined with paper muffin or cup-cake cases
a piping bag fitted with star tube
Melting chocolate in a bowl over hot water
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water (don't let the base of the bowl touch the water). Once melted remove the bowl from the pan, stir the chocolate until smooth and leave to cool (it's very important not to have boiling water when melting the chocolate as it will ruin it – trust me I learnt the hard way).

Put the flour, baking powder and caster sugar in a food-processor (you can use a hand blender but be prepared for things to get messy!) and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture has a ‘sandy’ texture. Mix the egg into the milk and then slowly add to the processor through the feed tube, while the machine is running. Scrape down the sides, add the melted chocolate to the bowl and run the machine until thoroughly combined. Divide the mixture among the cup-cake cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

Meanwhile pare a long strip of the peel from the orange and reserve for the butter cream. Cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice. Mix the granulated sugar into the juice.

Cooked Cakes
Take the cakes out of the oven and pierce the hot cakes in several places, with a skewer or cocktail stick. Spoon over the orange syrup. Leave to soak in for 5 minutes, then lift the cup cakes from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

For the butter cream, heat the milk (in a microwave or in a small pan, but do not boil) Add the strip of orange peel to the hot milk and leave to infuse until the milk is cold, discard the peel. Melt the white chocolate as you did with the dark chocolate (again ensure the water is not boiling or touching the bowl).

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy and gradually beat in the icing sugar and the cooled milk using a low speed (if you using a hand blender do not have it on high setting as again it gets very messy – again trust me on this). Finally, beat in the cooled melted chocolate.

Finally put the butter cream into the piping bag and pipe onto the cakes. Do not worry if you have gaps, as you can go over them with some more cream, as you can tell by the pictures.
Chocolate and Orange Cup Cakes

Saturday, 19 November 2011

ONE08 - Review


Scallop

Last Saturday a friend said about going out for dinner, so after scanning the Tastecard website we decided on two, Mayfair Mews and ONE08. After checking each restaurant out it appears that Mayfair Mews has a time policy in that you had to give the table up after 2 hours. I know 2 hours is a fair amount of time, but if you are paying good money nobody should dictate how long you can stay for. With this in mind we decided on going to ONE08.

When you enter the restaurant the first thing you notice is how dark it is. In fact it was so dark we had to use the candle to see the menu. The staff did apologise because all of the other tables that were in use, had a spot light on them but on our table there wasn't one. Their design team was coming back in to sort it out.

Carpaccio of Beef
The menu had a good variety of fish, meat and they had a couple of specials, but was lacking in vegetarian dishes. In fact they only had 1 starter and 2 main courses that were vegetarian and were certainly lacking in any imagination. Who wants a salad on a cold, damp evening for a main course?

For our starters, I ordered pan fried scallops with white beans, pancetta, chorizo and white wine. It did say scallops, but it was only one scallop cut into thirds, but the white bean “stew” was very tasty with a rich tomato sauce. My partner had a smoked haddock fish cake, on a bed of spinach with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. He said it was tasty, the cake was crispy on the outside with a moist and fluffy interior with a great smoky flavour, but the egg was a bit overcooked. My friend had carpaccio of beef, with mushroom and truffle oil with some mixed leaves on top. The beef was fresh and tasty with the oil complimenting the flavour.
Fish Cakes with Poached Egg and Hollandaise
Fish and Chips
I ordered fish and chips with mushy peas, the batter was light and crisp, but it was the chips that took centre stage- they were amazing. They are triple cooked and were the best chips I've had in many years. Like the batter, they where light and crisp with a really fluffy centre. My partner ordered English lamp rump and slow roast shoulder with autumn vegetables and pearl barley. The lamb was medium and had a nice pink middle, the meat was tender and melted in the mouth, although it was a very tiny portion of lamb. My friend ordered the special of skate wing with a caper sauce. The wing was large and well cooked, the flesh was firm and moist with a light flavour, which contrasted well with the caper sauce.

Lamb
I was the only one who had a dessert and ordered sticky toffee pudding. The pudding was moist and spongy but the sticky toffee sauce was grainy, as the sugar hadn't completely melted. It came with a portion of thick clotted cream which helped mellow out the sweetness of the sauce.

The staff were polite and helpful and a good evening was had and with the 50% discount we got off the food, because of the Tastecard, we will be back – if for no other reason than for those GREAT chips! We did all agree though that we would not go if we didn't get the discount, because the portions are on the very small side.
Skate

Friday, 18 November 2011

Malaysian Fish Curry


I am finally able to make a fish curry- my other half doesn't think that fish should be used in a curry as it spoils the flavour of the fish, but I disagree. He also doesn't like fish that much which makes it even harder to convince him. So, I am very pleased to say that he is out on the town tonight, and so a fish curry is on the menu!

After scanning a few recipes I decided to make Malaysian fish curry. This is not normally something I would make because I don't like desiccated coconut. This ingredient isn't in the same league as boiled eggs – (see more on the ‘About Me’ page), so I have decided that I should push my boundaries when it comes to foods I don't really like. How can I talk about something if I don't like it or have never tried it.

The list of ingredients is a little long, but don't be put off, as this makes a flavoursome and colourful curry, without being too hot (actually that part depends on you and your heat limits).

I would have used cod, but as there have been a few campaigns to get us to eat more sustainable fish I decided to use Coley. It's very similar to cod with the same white firm texture but about half the price. The only thing is the bones, but they are very easy to remove if you have some tweezers. A fish that I think will be seen a lot more in our house.

500g/1¼lb firm-textured fish fillet, (I used Coley)
2.5ml/½tsp salt
50g/2oz/⅔cup desiccated (dry and unsweetened) coconut
6 shallots or small onions
6 blanched almonds
2-3 cloves of garlic
2.5cm/1” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1-3 fresh red and green chillies, seeded
2 lemon grass stalks, trimmed
10ml/2tsp ground turmeric
45ml/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 x 400g/14oz cans of coconut milk
salt and pepper for seasoning
fresh chives for garnish (optional)

Dry heat the coconut in a pan, stirring continuously so as not to burn. Keep stirring until the coconut is golden and crispy. Place into a food processor and blitz until it becomes an oily paste, then place to one side

Put the shallots, almonds, garlic and ginger into the food processor and blend until a paste.

Cut cm/2” off the lemon grass, remove the outer layer, chop up and place it into the food blender. Also add the chillies. Blend until finely cut up into the paste. Then add the turmeric and blend again until it's all together until the turmeric is completely mixed into the paste.

Add the oil to the frying pan and heat. Add the paste for a few minutes stirring continuously sp as not to brown the paste. Throw in the cans of coconut milk, stirring to mix all together. Bash the left over lemon grass and also add to the wok. Very slowly heat up the curry sauce, stirring occasionally ensuring the coconut milk doesn't split (coconut milk will split if you heat it too quickly or the sauce becomes too hot). Cook the sauce for about 30 minutes and then removed all the lemon grass stalks.

For the last 10 minutes, cut the fish fillets into 2.5cm/1” pieces, sprinkle some salt over then put to one side.

When ready add the fish and cook for 5 minutes and add the coconut paste (you can moisten the paste by adding a little water) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add any seasoning you require. Serve with plain boiled rice and add some freshly chopped chives.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Great British Bake Off "How To Bake" Review

If you have followed my blog you will know that I am a novice at baking and with the help of the Great British Bake Off “How To Bake book I have been learning and improving my baking skills. I know this book has been out for a while, but as I've done a few recipes I thought I would write a review.

This is a really helpful book for both novices and experienced bakers. It lists easy and more challenging recipes. The easy recipes are shown as perfect for children and seeing as I have little experience of baking I attempted to see how easy they really were. I first tried the oat and raisin recipe (Click HERE). I found it easy to follow and helpful which gave me confidence in trying the more complex recipes. The book also lists recipes that are great for celebrations.

Oat and Raisin Biscuits
There are eight chapters and at the beginning of each one there is an in depth technical challenge. It has a step by step guide on how to create the final recipe and has images along side each step. The chapters are broken down into cakes, biscuits and teatime treats, bread, pies and savoury pastry, tarts and sweet pastry, patisserie, pudding and desserts and finally celebration cakes.

If you managed to watch the programme that this book was following, there are recipes created by the contestants who won ‘star baker’ in each episode. There are wonderful recipes including salmon and bok choi quiche, stilton, potato and caramelised onion pie, blueberry Bakewell tarts, plus many more.

Smoke Haddock and Watercress Quiche
I actually made one of the ‘best of the bake-off;’ smoked haddock and watercress quiche, which is very easy to follow and I thought came out rather well, (click link HERE to see my posting). The picture featured in the heading of this website is the one I made. At the bottom of this page you will see links to the other recipes that I have prepared and you can see the outcome. Plus you will see I had a disaster and made some mistakes too!

Each recipe is well laid out in the book and easy to follow, along with some great photos. The recipes have been written by Linda Collister and there are forwards and technical tips from the two judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. At the end of the book there is an oven temperature conversion page, which when writing recipes for my website has come in very handy.

You can purchase this book from any good bookshop and has a recommended retail price of £25. You can purchase this at a cheaper price by clicking on the link below


I have also just made Chocolate and Orange cakes, but have yet to write up the review.

Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets (Great British Bake Off TV Tie)


Apple Pie - See Post Here

Tarte Au Citron - See Post Here

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lemon and Fennel Sausages with Pasta


Lemon and Fennel Meatballs with Pasta

A very good friend of mine gave me some Giggly Pig sausages http://www.gigglypig.co.uk/
that he bought at an autumn fair at RHS Wisley near Guildford. He gave me two varieties, one was Lemon and Fennel and the other was Ginger and Spring Onion.

I was actually at a lost on what to do with these, because the flavours were unusual and not something I wanted to eat with just plain potatoes and vegetables. Whilst on the phone to another friend I came up with the idea of removing the skins from the lemon and fennel sausage meat and making them into meatballs and serving them with my basic tomato sauce dish. I served these with spaghetti, but you could use linguine and would actually go very well with cous cous and even bulgar wheat. The meat balls were very tasty and there was a gentle hint of lemon and fennel, which goes well with the tomato sauce

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (you can use fresh but you need to remove the skins)
  • handful of basil leaves, ripped
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 6 lemon and fennel sausages


Put the oil in a pan and heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, basil leaves and salt and pepper to season. Cook gently for as long as possible to create a more intense flavour.

Take the skins off the sausages, cut them in half and roll the sausage meat into balls. Put some oil in a frying pan and speed fry them to brown them off, but not long enough so they cook fully. Add them to the tomato sauce and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Browning the sausage meat
This serves 4 as a starter or 2-3 as a main course.



Sunday, 13 November 2011

Basic Tomato Sauce - Tuna Pasta


One of my favourite holidays was inter-railing around Italy with an friend called Arianna and whilst we were in Pisa, we had lunch with some of her friends. They showed me a great basic tomato sauce that I still use today and you can add any ingredients to. It's very easy to make and can be made in minutes, so I always have the ingredients in my cupboard. Which proved to be handy as my other half called to say that he is going to be late home and I didn't have time to go to our local supermarket so I made up the sauce.

  • 2tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (fresh are better, but must be skinned beforehand)
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, ripped
  • salt and pepper to season

Put the extra virgin olive oil into a pan and heat, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, ripped basil and season to taste and cook as long as possible over a gentle heat, as the longer you cook it the more intense the flavour becomes.
Tomato Sauce
You can just serve this with some pasta for a great tasty and healthy meal. But I wanted to add some extra ingredients to embelish it. So I added:
  • 1 dried chilli, finely chopped (with seeds)
  • 3 lumps of frozen spinach
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 1 tin of tuna in springwater.

With the tomato sauce simmering, add the chilli and frozen spinach, and cook until the spinach is broken down. Then added the mushrooms and tuna, including the springwater and cook for about 15 minutes. Stir altogether, but be careful not to stir too hard because you could break down the tuna into to smaller pieces and it's nice to have big clumps.

Once the pasta is cooked I pour the sauce into the saucepan containing the pasta and mix together and then serve.

Tuna Pasta
I serve this with conchiglie pasta, because it's holds the sauce in the shells to make a wonderful mouthful.  

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Keith Floyd cooking Toulouse Cassoulet

I am having to get my morning fix of food programmes, as there is no Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 and as I don''t have cable/satellite TV, from the Internet.


So, with my computer on and YouTube ready for action, I type in Keith Floyd, one of my favourite UK TV Chef and watch several clips. 


I want to share with you a 5 minute clip with Keith Floyd making a Toulouse Cassoulet, if only it was this simple to make I would have probably made it by now. I guess being a TV chefs has the advantage of someone else prepping all the ingredients for you. Also, as he is in France he is able (or the researchers) to get all the ingredients easily enough. Confit of duck and goose, is something I am never going to be able to get at my local supermarket.


Hope you enjoy the clip as much as I do. Oh if you're a vegetarian or a healthy eater, look away now.























Friday, 11 November 2011

Shallot and Chive Sauce


I love smoked gammon steaks (why would you have them unsmoked as they don't taste as good). But, they have fairly strong smoky flavour (because they are smoked :-) ) and it's nice to have a sauce to help lighten the meat, so I made a shallot and chive sauce to go with the steaks

My skills at making sauces are limited and I nearly always get annoyed because the so often go wrong, but this is one that I have made with relative ease and it actually comes out nicely.

  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 200ml milk (may need a little more depending on how thick or runny you like it)
  • 1 shallots, very finely chopped
  • 1tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • (serves 2)


Put a pan on the heat and add the butter, once melted add the flour and stir to mix it into the butter. Add a little milk and stir until the flour mixture has adsorbed the milk, add a bit more and stir again, keep repeating this procedure until all the milk has gone, and you should now have a milk sauce. Whilst it is heating up, add the chopped shallots and chives and cook until they are cooked, stirring continuously. The whole process will take about 10-15 minutes, until you have a thick sauce.

If the sauce is completed before everything else, take off the heat and put some cling film over the top, this will stop a skin from forming.

As I said at the beginning I like this with gammon steaks, but it would go well with roast chicken, turkey and pork or a white fish.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Apple Pie


Home Made Apple Pie

I haven't done any baking for a while, apart from bread, so I decided to make an apple pie, as I'd never made one before. Yes I know I've lead a shallow life :-). Using the Great British Bake Off How to Bake book, I picked the easiest recipe called Simple Apple Pie. With the ingredients list in my hand I went along to my local Tesco and bought all the ingredients required, which was a surprised because they are normally missing at least one item. When I got home I read the recipe and when I realised how difficult making all butter puff pastry was I thought it wasn't worth the effort so legged it back to Tesco and bought their Finest All Butter Puff Pastry! Yes I know it's lazy but I wasn't in the mood to spend so much time on making my own. I know I'm going to have to attempt to make puff pastry one day, if I'm going to apply for the next Great British Bake Off, or maybe the one after.

  • 4 large bramley apples (about 900g/1.9lbs)
  • 100g/3.5oz caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed lemon (you’ll need the juice and rind)
  • 375g/13.5oz of all butter puff pastry
  • 2tbsp milk to glaze  
Peel and quarter the apples. Thinly slice them into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice. Toss all the ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Pie Before Edges Cut Off
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until a circle is large enough to line a pie dish. Roll the pastry around the rolling pin and lift it over the dish, then unroll the pastry so it drapes over the dish. With a small ball of pastry, gently press the pastry onto the base and the sides. Leaving any excess pastry hanging over the rim – it will be cut off later.

Pile the apple mixture into the pastry case, packing it firmly – the mixture will cook down. Roll out the remaining pastry to a thin circle that is big enough to cover the top of the pie. Dampen the pastry on the rim of the dish with a little water.

Roll the pastry top around the rolling pin, lift it and unroll over the dish to cover the apples. Press the pastry edges firmly together to seal, but don't trim yet. Chill for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the over to 200C/400F/gas6. Put a baking tray into the oven to heat up.
Pie Before Being Cooked

Using a sharp knife trim off the excess pastry, then knock up the edges with the back of the knife: hold it horizontally and make tiny cuts in the pastry edge. Pinch the pastry edge between your fingers to flute. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar, then make a couple of small slits in the centre to the let out the steam.

Set the pie dish on the heated baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/250/gas 4 and bake for a further 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or at heat temperature.

The Great British Bake Off book is becoming a bit of a bible for me. It's a great book if you want to learn how to bake and it also has some great recipes. You can purchase it from the link below.
RRP £25


Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets (Great British Bake Off TV Tie)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hix in Soho Review


On the 7th October 2011 a friend and I tried to go to Hix for lunch, but luckily for me they were fully booked and we ended up going to a great restaurant called Andrew Edmunds. (See Review Here)


Well on the 3rd of November both my friend and I were around Soho and ended up going to Hix for lunch. It has taken a while for me to write this review, because I was incredibly annoyed at being told that I could not take pictures in the restaurant. What made it worse was as we were told we could not take pictures a camera crew turned up, oh and guess what they were doing? Yep taking pictures. Anyway rant over. Actually one more thing- Raymon Blancs' Le Manoir, didn't mind my taking photos and that restaurant has two Michelin stars, unlike Hix. Okay now rant over for now.


We were shown to our table and we asked for table water. After about 10 minutes we were
asked if we wanted a drink and if we wanted water. We both ordered a gin and tonic and told our waiter that we had already ordered water when we had sat down but were still waiting. After another ten minutes our order was taken and we ordered a bottle of wine, whilst still waiting for our gin and tonics, at least the water had turned up by then.



I ordered a dish called Heath and Earth, which was black pudding on a bed of apple mash, which was incredible. The black pudding was soft with a great spiced flavour and was in fact, the best black pudding I've ever had. The spices in the black pudding complimented the applesg mash. My friend had oysters, with the shells shucked but placed on top, which I had never seen before and for a second you think they haven't been opened. My friend said they were great but were on the small side.


My main course was smoked coley with a poached egg on top. This sat on a bed of
colcannon surrounded with a mustard sauce. The coley was very strong in taste, but was mellowed down by the colcannon. However the mustard sauce was a little over powering, plus the meal was so rich I was struggling to finish it off. My friend had mutton with curly kale, which he said was very meaty and moist and it just melted in the mouth.



Not that I am still bitter about the pictures, but I'm not adding the pictures of our
meal, which is a shame because the food did look tasty. I would not hurry back, because having a meal is not just about the food; it’s about having a pleasant experience and for me that was ruined – yes I’m still bitter......




edit - I have been in communications with Hix and it appears that it is a Caprice policy that they do not allow any pictures to be taken, this includes Hix, Ivy and Sheekeys. If this is a case then they should make this aware before we sit down and not half way through my meal

Monday, 7 November 2011

Soda Bread or Donkey Bread


I learnt something yesterday, not only should I RTFM, see previous post HERE, I should also try and learn my ingredients. I had decided to make soda bread, as my other half is always saying how much they like it. So I looked at a couple of recipes and like most recipes there were different versions and decided to pick one and this is it. Actually when I told a friend the recipe he said that what I cooked was not soda bread, because his Irish grand mother never used cream of tartar or caster sugar, which were required for this recipe (actually as you will see I didn't because I didn't know my ingredients).

I went to my local Tesco to get what was needed. In the mustard section I found tartar sauce and so bought it, thinking that was needed. After making the dough I baked it and placed it on the wire rack to cool, my partner came home and saw it and said it looks good, but then he noticed the tartar sauce and asked about it. I explained the recipe and he started laughing because cream of tartar is completely different to tartar sauce – OOOPS. But actually the bread taste's fine and my mistake didn't ruin it. Oh, I also forgot to add the caster sugar, maybe I have invented my own kind of bread, so I am going to call donkey bread. I guess this goes to show that you can “modify” recipes and they still come out okay. I was actually lucky, so in future if I'm not sure of an ingredient I will check it out on the internet first.
  • 225g/8oz/2cups wholemeal flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 225g/8oz/2cups plain white flour
  • 1tsp of salt
  • 2tsp of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 10ml/2tsp cream of tartar (not tartar sauce but it's okay)
  • 40g/1½oz/3tbsp of butter
  • 5ml/1tsp/ caster sugar (superfine) (I missed this out opps)
  • 350-375ml/12-13floz/1½-1⅔cups buttermilk


Sieve the flours into a bowl (I found that the wholemeal grains didn't sieve through) so I just threw them into the bowl and then added the salt and bicarbonate of soda.

Add the tartar and then the butter and rub it into the flour. Pour in the buttermilk and mix together, ensuring that you have a moist dough, you may need to add more flour or buttermilk, you are the best judge.

Roll the dough into a round, using a knife cut a deep cross into the dough. Place into a pre-heated oven (190C/375F/Gas 5) over 35-45 minutes. Trun the bread upside down and tap it, if it's cooked it should sound hollow, then leave on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

La Gaffe Restaurant Review


La Gaffe Interior

When my partner and I walked into La Gaffe my immediate thought was how tacky. It was like walking back into an 80's trattoria, with its fake murals, fake stonework and fake borders. After sitting down we started looking at three different menus; a la carte, specials and a set menu- It was then I was beginning to think we had made a mistake? How can you decide what to eat with such a wide variety? Then after settling in, I noticed the music; they were playing 80-90's music and both my partner wonderedif this was the 80's theme they were going for and decided to stay and enjoy it

Gamberetti alla Diavol
The expression ‘don't judge a book by its cover’ was the order of the day. I started with Gamberetti alla Diavol (pan seared prawns with mushroom, garlic and chilli in a tomato and white wine sauce). I was expecting king prawns and was surprised to see very small prawns in a ceramic dish in a tomato sauce. As I said about judging, despite preconceptions it was very tasty. The prawns were firm, the mushrooms soft and the garlic subtle. My only (minor) reservation was the dish was not spicy enough for me, but then I do like food with a kick. My partner had the Insalata D'Autunno (mixed roasted peppers with baby artichoke, avocado, tomatoes and olives on a bed of baby spinach and lollo rosso). It was a vibrate plate of colours, but apparently lacking in real flavour.

Insalata D'Autunno
Agnello Valtenlina

My partner followed his starter with Vitello Casa Nostra (veal with rocket in an artichoke and white wine sauce). The sauce had a wonderful full bodied flavour which complimented the tender veal, but it was such a small piece of meat and it was completely lost under all the rocket. I had the Agnello Valtenlina (grilled lamb rack in a white wine, rosemary and garlic sauce). When it was served I couldn't believe how much rosemary and garlic had been placed on the top of the burnt rack and thought I am going to smell of garlic for days. I personally don't mind, but not everybody wants to smell garlic on other people's breath. I scrapped all the rosemary and garlic on to a side plate and then devoured the lamb. Although the bones were burnt the meat was perfectly cooked, tender, moist with just a hint of pinkness to the flesh. What was a surprise was the over generous amount of garlic and rosemary did not overpower the lamb and there was just a slight hint of the two ingredients in the meat. I was very irritated by having to pay for a side order of vegetables (why do restaurants do this?) as the dish came on its own. So we ordered red cabbage, which was slightly overcooked, and broccoli which had a deep green colour with lots of crunch.

Vitello Casa Nostra
The meal was much better than we anticipated and with the 2 for 1 offer on the Tastecard, we saved ourselves £14, which made it even better. Now if I can just get over the 80's and get The Power of Love out of my head I will go back.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

I never understand why people buy soup, because making it is so quick and easy, it also tastes so much better. Try this very popular winter warming soup and serve with some good crusty bread and once you realise how easy it is you'll start making your own.





  • Large knob of butter
  • Oil
  • 1 Onion
  • 250g broccoli, chopped
  • 100g stilton
  • 500ml water
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1tsp vegetable stock (optional)

Put the butter with a small drop of oil and melt add the onion and cook for a few minutes. Add the broccoli and stir for 2-3 minutes, so the broccoli gets covered by the butter and oil. Then add the stock and heat until the broccoli is cooked, about 15 minutes. Blend all the ingredients together with a blender, either hand or food processor. With the soup still on the heat add the stilton in stages and stir in until it's melted. Keep adding until it's at the flavour you require. I like it a strong cheese flavour so added all of the 100g. Add salt and pepper to season, I personally don't add any salt, due to the amount in the cheese and the stock.

You can add vegetable stock if you require. I didn't add any as I found there was enough flavours from the broccoli and stilton

If you haven't got a hand blender then you can purchase from this link 

Philips HR1363 Hand Blender with Beaker and Chopper Accessory