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.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Plum and Almond cake with Bottlegreen Ginger and Lemongrass Syrup

I was kindly given some plums from a colleague's garden this week.  Being one of my husband's favourite fruits and deciding a few brownie points were in order, I decided to make a cake; just for him! (Well, ok, we'll all eat it too, but it's the though that counts, isn't it?). I love plums and almonds together and having recently been sent a range of Bottle Green cordials to try, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to combine them both with a twist in the topping, so here's what I made:

10 plums (or enough to arrange in the base of your tin)
10ml Bottle Green Ginger and Lemongrass cordial
10ml Water
10ml Muscovado sugar
200g Butter
200g Muscovado sugar
4 Eggs
10ml Almond Extract
100g Plain Flour
10ml Baking Powder
100g Ground Almonds

1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
2. Line a 20cm/8" spring form tin with baking parchment (or use a cake tin liner, as I've done).
3. Cut your plums in half and remove the stones.
4. Arrange in the bottom of your cake tin, cut side down.

5. In a small saucepan combine the Bottle Green Ginger and Lemongrass cordial, the water and the Muscovado sugar.
6. Bring to the boil and boil for 3-5 minutes until reduced in volume and syrup-like.
7. Pour evenly over the plums then set aside to cool while you make your cake batter.
8. In a large bowl, add the butter, Muscovado sugar, eggs, almond extract, vanilla paste, flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
9. Cream together thoroughly for a few minutes until light in texture.
10. Spoon the cake batter over the plums and level the top.
11. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
12. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
13. Invert the cake onto a plate and remove the parchment liner.
14. This cake can be served warm with custard, ice cream, clotted cream or cream. Alternatively allow to cool before serving.

The plums were a gift from a colleague's garden.  I often buy Bottle Green cordials personally, but was sent a box of 3 bottles to try, including Elderflower, Strawberry and the Ginger & Lemongrass cordial that I used in this cake.  I was under no obligation to develop a recipe using the Bottle Green cordials sent to me.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Roast chicken curry with Clearspring Organic Rice Trio

Having spatchcocked the chicken, placed it on a trivet of sweet potatoes and onions and originally intending to make a roast dinner out of it, I changed my mind when the chicken was cooked and had come out of the oven, so I made a quick & easy chicken curry out of it instead.  Here's how:

For the roast chicken:
1 large chicken
2 sweet potatoes, quartered
2 medium onions, quartered
200ml cold water
For the curry:
30ml/2tbs Mango chutney (or to taste)
To serve:
Fresh coriander, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 180C.
2. Turn the chicken onto it's breast and, using a pair of robust scissors, cut down each side of the spine to remove it.
3. Turn the chicken over and open out the legs and the wings.
4. Press down on the ribcage until it cracks and the chicken flattens out.
5. Peel and quarter the sweet potatoes and onions.
6. Place into the centre of a large roasting dish and place the chicken on top, breast & skin side up.
7. Pour in 200ml cold water & cover tightly with foil.
8. Roast for 1 1/2-2 hours until well cooked.
9. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover and allow to rest.
10. Pour the meat juices, sweet potato and onions into a saucepan and add the Knorr Curry Flavour Pot.
11. Bring to the boil and then add the mango chutney, adjusting the quantity to taste.
12. Blitz the curry sauce with a stick blender until smooth.
13. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then add the Clearspring rice trio.
14. Gently boil the rice for 10 minutes, or until cooked and then drain.
15. Meanwhile, flake the chicken into pieces.
16. Serve the rice, making a hollow in the centre.
17. Add the flaked chicken to the centre of the rice and spoon some curry sauce over the top.
18. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with naan bread.

The Clearspring Rice Trio was sent to me free of charge to sample.  All other ingredients were purchased by me personally and were not sponsored. I was under no obligation to publish content using the box of rice sent to me. We found the rice trio combination to be tasty, as well as enjoying the different textures of the Basmati, long grain brown and the Wholegrain rice.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Restaurant Review - Byron Hamburgers - Greenwich Promenade

One Sunday evening, in London, my husband, daughter and I, all with healthy appetites and ready for dinner, found ourselves in Byron Hamburgers on the East Pavilion, Greenwich Promenade.  A busy area of London next to the Cutty Sark; an iconic tourist hotspot in the Capital.

Requesting a table overlooking the river Thames looking towards the Docklands, we were shown up to the roof terrace and invited to take our seats by our friendly waitress.

On taking our order, we enjoyed the views until our drinks and starters of tortilla chips with a tomato salsa and guacamole arrived.  Whilst both dips were very tasty, I did find the salsa to be on the watery side.

The hamburgers we ordered; a Classic for my husband comprising a 6oz burger, served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise whilst my daughter and I chose a Byron burger - served with dry cured bacon, mature cheddar cheese, iceburg lettuce, red onion and 'Byron' sauce.  We chose all of our burgers to be well done (the norm is for them to be served medium, unless otherwise requested by the customer).

For our side orders we chose Fries which were served thin & crispy, Onion Rings made from thick slices of battered onions served in a crispy batter as well as Courgette Fries; fingers of courgette coated with batter and fried until crispy on the outside.

The Scottish beef is freshly ground and served on a soft and airy bun.  The meat is succulent and tender whilst remaining moist. The staff here are attentive and friendly without being pushy and obtrusive.  I'd certainly recommend this branch to anyone in the area; it's well worth a visit.

Our meals were paid for personally. I was not invited to dine at Byron Hamburgers, nor have I received compensation for this review.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Food Review - Magnum Crème Brûlée

2014 sees the 25th Anniversary of Magnum Ice Creams; those light and creamy ice creams, thickly coated in chocolate that I personally find very hard to resist!

Selfridges in Oxford Street currently have a Magnum bar where you can go in and create your own, unique and bespoke Magnum to enjoy and celebrate their special birthday.

Also exclusive to Selfridges is the Creme Brûlée limited edition.  Smooth and creamy ice cream containing caramelised sugar pieces and enrobed in a thick milk chocolate is a true taste sensation!

Crack through the chocolate.
Bite into the smooth ice cream.
Crunch on the caramelised sugar pieces.
Heaven on a little wooden stick!

They're currently retailing at £3.00 each.  If you get the chance, pop into Selfridges and treat yourself to one; I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

I was sent a voucher with which to purchase my exclusive, limited edition, Creme Brûlée Magnum to try.  I was under no obligation to write a review, positive or otherwise of these ice creams.  All opinions are my own and that of my family, who also enjoyed one.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Food Review - Lake District Dairy Co. Quark sauces

Monday evening a couple of weeks ago saw me part company with my husband & daughter as they headed out for dinner and the cinema together as I attended the Underground Cookery School to preview the new Quark sauces that the Lake District Dairy Co. will be launching in August & September.  They'll be produced in three varieties; Garlic & Herb, Tikka and Tomato & Basil.


The Lake District Dairy Co. brand was first launched in 2008. In April 2013 they introduced the first 100% British produced Quark to the supermarket shelves.  It's a product that's fairly common on the supermarket shelves of Europe, but not so much here, and since it's launch has become one of the fastest growing products in the cheese category.

Quark is a naturally fat free, low carbohydrate, low calorie alternative to dairy ingredients such as crème fraiche, double cream, cream cheese or clotted cream. It's also higher in protein than the dairy products it can substitute, and is therefore a great ingredient replacement for those looking to follow a healthier diet, without having to compromising on taste. Quark is currently available in 3 varieties; original, lemon and vanilla.  Add to this the new range of cook in sauces, and you now have the choice of 6 variations from which to choose.  It can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes, so the only limitation is your imagination!

First on our menu was a starter.  After making our own pasta, we filled it with Garlic & Herb Quark, folded it into ravioli and served it with a Tomato & Basil Quark sauce, sundried tomatoes, fresh herb leaves, Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.

We then went on to learn how to remove the breasts and legs from a chicken which we transformed into Chicken Tikka Quark skewers served with Garlic & Herb Quark and roasted artichoke filled pancakes, as well as a potato, Garlic & Herb Quark salad, and a roquette and okra dressed salad.

For dessert we made two ice creams using original Quark; a lemon one and a vanilla one, but I ate my dessert before photographing it, sorry! 

These sauces are proving to be very versatile.  For the quick simple meal, you could simply open, heat and serve the sauce with fresh pasta or cooked chicken. If you have little more time, you can use these as the base ingredient and transform your meal into something more delicious indeed!

I was invited to the Underground Cookery School to take part in this event by the PR company of Quark. I was offered samples to being home to try, however I was unable to accept them as I had no refrigeration facilities in the hotel. I did, however, receive a goodie bag of utensils and menu cards with which to create the dishes we made on the night.  I was under no obligation to write a review of this evening or of the products we were introduced to.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Food Review - Nairn's Oatcakes

What a lovely invitation I received - to attend The Ivy Club in London on behalf of Nairn's Oatcakes for a Cocktails & Canapés evening.  Too exciting to turn down and already a fan of Nairn's Oatcakes, I just had to say yes!

Nairn's have been baking oatcakes for over 100 years, so they know a thing or two about producing a fab product! Their oats are sourced in their native Scotland which has the perfect climate for slowly and naturally ripening the grains used to make their products.  Produced in both sweet and savoury variations, rough and smooth in texture, with or without fruit or seeds, they provide the perfect snack or base to enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.  Their products come in perfectly portioned, wrapped packs making them easy to slip into your bag or lunch box for freshness on the go.  The difficult part is which one to choose as your base and what tasty topping you're going to pile it up with!

In addition to their Scottish grown oats for their general market oatcakes, they source certified gluten free oats from Wyoming from a family of coeliacs who know the importance of guaranteeing that the products grown are free from wheat.  This farming family is so passionate about their product that they walk their fields ensuring that no rogue grains contaminate the oats. Nairn's also have a dedicated manufacturing facility in which they produce their gluten free range, thereby reducing the contamination risk even further.  Great news for every coeliac!

Oats contain the highest soluble fibre of all the grains making them excellent to fill you up and release their energy slowly. They're wheat free and contain no added sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavours or preservatives, making them a fabulous and healthy energy source. Great served with peanut butter, jam or fresh fruit for a sweet treat or with cheese, meats, hummus, salads or soups for a savoury feast that's not only tasty, but is good for you too.  Oats are naturally low in GI which help keep the blood sugars and energy levels even, thereby reducing cravings and helping with weight loss.  

A perfect start to the day either at home of in the office is their gluten free porridge oats which old in handy, single portion pouches, or in a tub for extra convenience, they'll ensure you're not hungry until lunchtime.

I do buy Nairn's Oatcakes ordinarily, but I'm even more of a fan of these now that I've had the opportunity to taste the entire range.

I was invited to The Ivy Club on behalf of Nairn's Oatcakes by their PR company. I was given free product samples to bring home after the event.  I was not under any obligation to review these products, positive or otherwise. 

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