North Northamptonshire based food blogger who is obsessed with good food and proper cooking. I'm part of the Midlands Blogging team for the BBC Good Food Shows. This is where I share my own recipes and carry out recipe development and product reviews for brands, including food and wines. Please contact me using the link below.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Virtual Come Dine with Me with Russell Hobbs and Chicken Liver Pate

I was invited to create and share the first course of a 'Virtual Blogger Come Dine with Me' event for Russell Hobbs using one of their exciting, newly launched, Illumina range of kitchen equipment.  I was sent the 3-in-1 Hand Blender with has an RRP of £49.99 to try out.  This is a sleek and stylish looking black and stainless steel gadget that packs a powerful 700w punch of power.  Add this a coloured illuminated ring with colour coded speeds which you choose and nothing can be simpler!  It includes the stick blender; great for purees, smoothies and shakes.  The whisk that you can whip up a decadent topping of cream for any dessert or your smoothies, for a (not so calorie free) treat.  The 1000ml beaker supplied is great to use with the stick blender to make your smoothies in, whilst the 750ml chopping bowl is perfect for breadcrumbs, herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Using this easy to create recipe for my Chicken Liver Pate, I'm kicking off this week's cyber Come Dine with Me party.  I can't wait for the main course that Carmela's creating for you on Wednesday and of course, as every girl loves, the dessert which is being created by Julie on Friday!

4 Shallots
100g Butter, unsalted
1tsp Oregano
1tsp Sage
1tsp Thyme
400g Chicken livers
2tbs Madeira
Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel the shallots and cut in half.  Place in the hand chopping bowl and pulse on speed 3 (green - Purees/Chopping) until roughly chopped.

Wash and trim the livers then cut into evenly sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a non stick frying pan over a gentle heat and cook the shallots until transparent. Be careful not to burn the butter.

Add the herbs, livers and Madeira.

Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Allow to cool for a few minutes then tip into the beaker.

Using the stick blender on speed 3 (green - Purees/Chopping) puree the pate until smooth.

Tip into an earthenware dish, decorate with fresh bay leaves and chill until cold and set.

Serve with crackers, a bit of fresh salad and some of my homemade Apple & Sultana Chutney with a Chilli Kick.

So, now you've seen what I started the meal with, please go and see what Carmela has cooked up for the main course for you on Wednesday.

The obvious beauty of a non-TV version of Come Dine with Me is that there's no strangers sitting on my bed, opening my cupboards and looking through my drawers!

Thanks to Russell Hobbs for sending me the Illumina 3-in-1 Hand Blender to review and also for the Sainsbury's shopping voucher to compensate for the time and ingredients for this event.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Knorr Flavour Pots - Garlic, herb with Chicken Ras El Hanout

I'm really loving how easy these Knorr Flavour Pots are to use; a perfect blend of flavour combined with absolute ease of use makes meal preparation so much easier.

Tonight I combined two of the Flavour Pots; the garlic and the mixed herbs with 2tsp of Ras El Hanout seasoning and 1tbs of rapeseed oil into a large bowl and mixing them thoroughly. I then cut 4 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and coated them all in the garlic, herb & spice mixture before covering the bowl with cling film and placing in the fridge for 4-6 hours to marinade and infuse the chicken with these amazing flavours.

The chicken pieces were placed onto a baking tray and cooked at 200°C for 25-30 minutes until the chicken was cooked through.  Served simply with a stuffed bell pepper and some home made roast potato wedges was the perfect, simple tea time treat.  

There were some of the chicken pieces leftover after serving dinner, so I've allowed them to cool ready to go with a salad for my lunch on Monday.

The Knorr pots were given to me by the Unilever Kitchen and Knorr UK.  I was under no obligation to create this recipe or to post a positive review on the product.  My review above is a true reflection of how simple, convenient & delicious I have found these Flavour Pots.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Seize the Flavour with Knorr Flavour Pots

Knorr have a new addition to their range of Stock Pots and Gravy Pots.  They now have Flavour Pots too.  I was lucky enough to have been invited to a Chef's Tasting Table at the Ice Tank in Covent Garden, London where we were introduced to one of the development chefs, Cameron Healy, as well as Professor Barry C Smith, an expert in flavour perception from the Centre for the Study of Senses, who worked alongside Knorr and Cameron to develop the right balance of flavours that these little pots manage to pack inside.

We were informed on how we taste our food; using the smell, taste and touch that our nose and mouth experience to pass on the enjoyment (or dislike) of flavours and textures that we consume.  There are five senses in regard to the flavours that we experience; sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (or savoury as it is often referred to).

We were give a simple little test to prove that our noses help us to taste the flavours of our food.  Just try pinching your nose and eating.  What do you sense? Creaminess, texture, 'mouth feel'? Can you taste what you're eating? Probably not. Now, release your nose and allow the flavours of your food to come through and understand how both of these senses worth together in perfect harmony to allow us to enjoy what we eat.

Amongst the human population are approximately 25% of people who are deemed to be 'super tasters'.  Those who have more tightly packed receptors on the tongue which allow them to have a more intense experience of the food that they eat.  This can be detected in a couple of ways; visually using a food colouring on the tongue and the number of pink receptors physically counted in a set area, or chemically with an impregnated piece of paper that is placed on the tongue.  To some people, this paper has absolutely no taste. To others it can taste mildly to moderately bitter and to some it can taste absolutely vile.  Unfortunately, to my dislike, I was in the absolutely vile camp within seconds of it being placed on my tongue.  This Professor Smith informs me, places me firmly in the realms of being a 'super taster'; something which I hope to be able to explore further in the future.

So, now we know why and how we taste our food, it was over to Chef Cameron to excite our taste buds with a menu created using the Knorr Flavour Pots. The five Knorr Flavour Pots were used by Cameron to produce a 6 course Chef's Tasting menu that we all enjoyed;

First on the menu was Garlic Prawns, created using a few simple ingredients with the Garlic Flavour Pot.  Each pot is the equivalent of 2 garlic cloves which are transformed into a ready to use, perfectly balanced paste.

Our second course was a warming Curried Parsnip Soup.  Parsnips were combined with the Curry Flavour Pot to produce a warm and richly flavoured soup.  The Curry Flavour Pot is a blend of 13 perfectly balanced spices which didn't overpower the parsnips, but allowed the flavour of them to come through.

Third to be served to us from the menu used the Mixed Herb Flavour Pot and came to us in the form of a Pasta Napolitana; a perfect blend of Mediterranean herbs, such as Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary and Basil which have been expertly blended to produce a paste which complemented the Umami in the tomatoes used in the sauce.

Our next course was a Chilli Chicken Stir Fry using the Mixed Chilli Pot.  Now this was (to me personally) a hot dish, but nevertheless, perfectly balanced in respect of aroma & flavours.

A perfectly cooked fillet Steak was served with a Peppercorn & cream Sauce, made using the 4th pot in the collection; 3 Peppercorn Flavour Pot.  A incredibly simple to produce dish, that packs a huge flavour.  All the hard work really has already been done for you in these little pots.

In our final course of the evening, a Strawberry Shortcake, came the surprise.  The simple & light shortcake was made using the 3 Peppercorn Flavour Pot which was stirred into the mixture prior to piping & baking.  You initially get the sweet and crumbly taste of the biscuit with the added but subtle warmth of the black, green and pink peppercorns following.  Team this with the cream and fresh strawberries & you've got a perfect dessert to round off a perfect evening.

All of the Flavour Pots in the range are Gluten Free are suitable for Vegetarians and they come in a pack of 4 pots.

My thanks go to the Unilever Kitchen, Knorr, Chef Cameron Healy, Professor Barry C Smith, Clarion Communications and Ice Tank for a fantastic, informative and interesting evening.  I certainly look forward to being able to explore and develop my tastes and perception of food further.
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