Thursday, 31 March 2011

Milk Chocolate Trees!

Hotel Chocolat Blog revealed TODAY that they have devloped the worlds first Milk Chocolate tree by watering the cocoa trees with Milk!  However, this caused a problem with attracting cats (they say the mewing got them down, I think it is the stench of cat wee myself!) but the lactose intolerant dogs chased them away.  More details below about this exciting development.
Scientific Breakthrough – Milk Chocolate Cocoa Trees Developed at Rabot Estate

Chief Executive, Angus Thirlwell, said, “This is a much more efficient way to make milk chocolate and I’m delighted to reveal it to our customers first. There has only been one minor downside to date, but we think we may have overcome that problem already…”

Estates Director, Phil Buckley, who has been the driving force behind this huge step forward said, “It’s very quiet here in Saint Lucia during the off season, so we started experimenting to pass the time. Unfortunately, the rum-fed cocoa trees are looking a bit worse for wear, but the milk-fed trees have flourished.”

However, as already mentioned, there is a downside to watering cocoa trees with milk – the creamy aromas have attracted quite a number of cats to the estate.

Phil Buckley explains, “I’ve nothing against cats, but the mewing was driving us all mad. Luckily, it turns out our neighbour’s dogs are lactose intolerant, so they’re more than happy to chase the cats away. I’d like to say a big thank you to our neighbours up at the Poisson d’Avril Estate.”

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pineapple Chilli Upsidedown Cake

Upsidedown cake. Reminiscent of school years, a classic pudding that came with lumpy custard; the addition of chilli makes this cake somewhat out of the ordinary and therefore perfectly fabulous as a dinner party dessert. It's not hot or spicy but it has a kick that you can't quite put your finger on. The red flecks give this cake attitude and the sprinkling of lime zest give it that third dimension.... but underneath the sophistication of the sweet chilli syrup is a fabulously retro layer of artfully arranged tinned pineapple. I can't help but drink the remaining juice either (out of the tin, I add with some guilt!). The man from Del Monte would be proud.

Anyway, onto the recipe (adapted from Delicious Magazine)

  • 200g golden syrup 
  • One red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 
  • Zest of one lime 
  • A tin of sliced pineapple in juice (567g tin) 
  • 225g unsalted butter 
  • 225g caster sugar 
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten 
  • 225g self-raising flour 

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, (fan-oven temp)

2. Put the golden syrup, chilli and zest into a small pan and warm through for a couple of minutes, to let the flavours mingle, then pour just over half into the base of a non-stick 8" (23cm) baking tin (do not use a loose bottom tin or the syrup will escape! If this is all you have, place a baking try covered with foil in the oven below your tin to catch any drips).
3. Take 7 of your pineapple rings and arrange over the syrup, like the picture below. Chop the remaining pineapple and set aside.

4. Using an electric hand mixer, or a 'whizzer' with the whisk attachment, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

5. Add the beaten eggs in four stages, whilst slowly whizzing, adding a table spoon of your flour half way to prevent curdling.
6. Finally, fold in the flour and add 2 tablespoons of the pineapple juice and stir briefly to combine. Add the chopped pineapple and pour the mixture into the tin on top of the pineapple rings and syrup

7. Ensure the middle of the cake is slightly dipped with a spoon - if you don't, the cake will dome as it rises higher in the middle, and you will have a wobbly, wonky cake when you turn it out.

8. Bake for 45 minutes, then check it's done by poking a skewer into the middle of the cake - it should come out clean. If it doesn't pop the cake back in the oven for a few more minutes then try again. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes.

9. Finally, carefully turn your cake out onto a large serving plate. Warm the remaining syrup through and pour over the cake. Serve warm with cream or custard.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

I'm ill.  I have a stinking cold, need to relax and want something comforting that doesn't take too long to cook but will make me feel loved - know the feeling?  My solution is mushroom risotto.

All that stirring, I hear you cry!  But alas, after a hard day, standing stirring with a spatula in one hand, a glass of wine (or lemsip) in the other sounds perfect to me.  And the earthy, garlicky mushrooms, creamy rice and succulent chicken are just what the doctor ordered.

This is the first recipe I've written for the blog and it's probably worth noting that I'm a make-it-up-as-I-go-along kinda girl, especially when I feel like just sleeping, so the below is what I did tonight, but may not be what I'd do tomorrow.  Although having said that, tonight's was fan-bloody-tastic (even if I do say so myself)


  • 50g dried mushrooms, any type
  • tbsp olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • Skinless, boneless chicken things, cubed
  • Fresh mushrooms, sliced (chestnut or the humble button mushrooms if that's what you have)
  • Risotto rice (about 200g)
  • Glass of white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese - good handful, about 50g
  • Parsley


1. Pop the mushrooms in a half litre measuring jug and fill with boiling water.  If you don't have a measuring jug of this size, use a bowl and cover the mushrooms with water (but you may need more stock later in this case).  Leave to soak for 20 minutes.  Drain the mushrooms, reserving the water, and chop.

2. In a wide deep pan, heat the oil and butter together and add the onions and garlic.  Cook on a low-medium heat for about 5 minutes (do not let them brown) and add the chicken for a couple of minutes, followed by the fresh and dried mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes.  Season with pepper and a little salt (stock is quite salty, so go easy on adding salt at this stage).  Then, add the risotto rice, keep stirring and notice that the rice grains will begin to turn transparent.

3.  Add the wine and let it bubble.  Pour some more wine into the now empty glass and, whilst stirring, enjoy.  Once all the wine has absorbed (in the pan, not the glass), add the all of the mushroom water, discarding the last tablespoon of liquid, stirring continuously (ish... I often walk away and come back to it, but I have a relatively short attention span and a sometimes needy husband...  I digress).

4. Once the mushroom water has been absorbed, add the stock little by little, stirring continuously (ish... again!), until you are happy with the rice; it should still have some bite, but be creamy and plump (about 20 minutes).  Season to taste.

5. Take off the heat and add most of the cheese and a small knob of butter. Stir well and cover for a couple of minutes whilst you potter off into the garden to grab some parsley, or if you're not so green fingered, to the fridge

6. Serve with the remaining cheese and sprinkled with parsley

This really hit the spot.  Once I took the photograph above, I grabbed the pan and put the same amount in my bowl again... I'm so greedy!

Enjoy!  B 

Did you know...?

The smaller you chop your garlic, the stronger the taste.... yum

Bake Sale for Japan

The first I heard about it was on facebook from my friend living in Tokyo, with the post 'Building's swaying'.  I flicked on the TV and couldn't take my eyes from BBC news, couldn't believe what I was seeing; the wall of water hitting Japan after a terrifying earthquake was just too much, then the nuclear issues - talk about insult to injury.

I've donated money through the red cross but want to do more, but when you see pictures of people sitting in the rubble of their homes looking for loved ones, it's hard to know what to do or how to contribute.

The world is a harsh place, but it's times like these that the kindness of others shines through - enter The Tomato Tart, a magnificent lady who has created 'Bake Sale for Japan' to raise money for Second Harvest Japan, who are responding to the crisis by feeding those in need.  A group of foodie bloggers have come together to donate their wares; you can bid on 30th March for delightful treats from around the globe (or perhaps on your doorstep!).  The highest bidder will get their treats posted by April 11th.

See a list of bloggers contributing and their delightful treats here.

I don't know if I'll be contributing to the sale yet - I was a little late responding - but either way I'll certainly be bidding!  Can't wait for the sale, let's raise some dough (geddit?  Mercifully stolen joke from The Tomato Tart!)

If it turns out I'm not too late then watch this space for an unusual contribution.  

Please give generously

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Let's Get Naked!

Naked Wines is a group of 20,000 normal wine drinkers who sponsor 25 winemakers to make us delicious wines. Exclusively.  And I'm one of them (a drinker, not a maker).

Naked Wines was set up as founder Rowen found that most of the expensive famous wines were mediocre - Jacobs Creek, anyone?  Unknown winemakers out there were producing stunning wines that no one had ever heard of.  

Naked Wines is to Odd Bins what a farmers market is to Tesco; they find the small businesses with the best produce and bring them to you, cutting out the middle man; what makes them different is that Naked actually fund winemakers being squeezed out of the market by big names to create new and exciting wines.  What you get is fantastic wine at a reasonable price; the winemaker have a customer base through Naked and don't have to spend a fortune on sales and marketing, so you get better wine at a better price.

If you don't already get Naked, it's about time you did.  Yesterday, I opened a white Rioja from Argentina, Mauricio Lorca Angel's Reserve Torrontes 2010 Reserve by a winemaker who was given £50k by Naked to create a new wine and ultimately make a living against the fat cats.  It was one of the most delicious wines I've had the pleasure to drink, honeyed, crisp, perfect for a spring evening.  I logged on to buy myself a case, but they've sold out already!  Needless to say, I'm front of the queue for the next vintage....

Look What I Made!

Well, a more honest title would be 'Look What We Made'.... or even 'Look What He Made'.  Let's not get into semantics, as my dad (and I) have just finished making THIS:

A vegetable trough for my teeny garden that I am determined will feed me for a summer.  My good ole dad followed strict instructions to help me build a veggie trough to make use of that corner of patio I couldn't do anything with but got lots of sunlight, and this is what came of our natter.  I watched as it was built, giving instructions from the sidelines, and filled it with compost and seeds, seeds lovingly placed 1 inch apart.... until I got bored and scattered them wide and far (I can always thin them out later).  Onions, spring onions, little gem lettuces, multi-coloured radishes, stripy beetroot, rocket and spinach are all currently germinating or growing.  I transplanted some teeny seedlings of spinach and rocket that I planted a couple of weeks ago and they're doing so well!

Elsewhere in my garden I'm growing strawberries, blueberries, runner beans and a multitude of herbs.  Tomatoes and cucumbers to follow; they are currently being nurtured by uncle John in his greenhouse.  Some of this is even growing in the compost I made last year! I never thought I'd be green fingered; well, I still may not be, I guess we'll have to wait and see if any of the seeds I've planted actually turn into something edible.

Looking forward to a summer of preserving, baking, eating.  Maybe some new recipes... I'd post them here, but no followers yet.... here's hoping

Thanks Pops!  Your great DIY skills have not gone unnoticed :-)

Sweet Trees!!! Oh My

My grandma (AKA Mamma) is nearly 85 and LOVES chocolate.  Lots of people say this but for my mamma it could be more true.  We go shopping and her basket is full of cream cakes, biscuits and chocolate.  I steer her towards the vegetables and I'm scolded 'What do I need vegetables for, I'm 84'.  Who am I to argue!?

So when looking for the perfect Easter gift (she likes to be spoilt,and rightly so), I stumbled across this little gem of a website:

Having read the 'About Us' page, Christina's story tugged at my heart strings, and it's women like this who I admire so passionately.  Good for you, Christina, and keep the wonderful designs coming.  I, for one, will be treating my Mamma to one of these delights :

...and if other family members are as good to me as my mamma, they might be lucky come Easter Sunday too!

La Brasserie at The Grosvenor, Chester

My husband does spoil me, I'm a lucky girl.  In a sudden bout of guilt for spending all last weekend playing computer games, he decided to book at night at the Grosvenor, Chester, with a Spa treatment each and dinner at La Brasserie.  I suggested we eat at 9pm with a view to having Afternoon Tea at 2ish... except he forgot to book afternoon tea.... no matter, but we foolishly thought we'd have a light lunch and save ourselves for dinner.... only to cave in at 3pm and treat ourselves to a burger.

(A side review here - I had a P&P burger at the Pitcher and Piano, topped with mushrooms and blue cheese.  Fabulous burger, not much cheese, small mushrooms that kept dropping out; a portobello would have been better.  I'm not actually a burger girl, but sometimes only a burger will do and this one hit the spot; homemade 8oz burger, well seasoned, cooked quickly, pink in the middle.  Delish.  Highly recommend when you want something quick and only something meaty will do.  Minds out of the gutter, please).  

I digress.

So, 9pm came around and we made our way down to the opulent, if slightly snooty, dining room.  Diners are a mix of Cheshire-set couples and those who just want good food in a pleasant setting.  There was a distinct lack of laughter at the tables that The Boy and I made up for!!  

La Brasserie's faux French interior does nothing for me; I like places that don't try to be something they're not.  It did do faux French very well though and reminded me of a darling little bistro I ate at once when hiding from my brother in law in Paris - a whole other story there. The granite tables, simply set with elegant glass wear and sterling silver cutlery did create a not-too-fussy setting that could easily have slid into tacky.  The waitress also took my request to move to a different table with a view (high maintenance - moi?) well and happily let us switch without complaint or hesitation

On the way in we spotted the delightful cheeseboard, full of local cheeses, found by 'The Cheese Detective' Peter Papri (a job title I'm desperate for), so we chose our meals knowing this delight was awaiting.

On to the menu; confused.  Mixing Spanish, French, Italian and modern British, it struggled to find it's identity and I struggle to make my choice; It's an eclectic mix in menu and in dishes; nothing simple and, being a Brasserie, I'd got myself into a simple food state of mind, so French Onion Soup it was for me, and Tellagio Ravioli for him.  The soup was good, more-ish, but not so special I couldn't make it home; lots of onions, not much broth but topped with a gorgeous cheesy crouton that I can never do myself without burning the edged. The ravioli was pretty special with a great balance of dense and light, with thinly sliced pear and stunning caramelised walnuts.

For the main course, and a simply grilled piece of halibut for him, a braised pork collar for me, served with a saveloy sausage, a piece of pork belly, mash and a mashroom and pancetta friccasee.  Had I read the menu properly, I'd have realised that I ordered lots of meat, which I didn't want.  I thought I'd ordered something that came with savoy cabbage, not saveloy, my mistake, but if it was served with cabbage, the whole dish would have been lighter and much, much more enjoyable.  Meat overload unfortunately - very well executed but a little bland as a result of excess pig!!

My main course was only OK, perhaps a result of bad ordering and having left my glasses in the room!  Having said that, I left full and content.  The Boy really enjoyed his halibut, but I was in a bit of a sulk that his was nicer than mine so I refused to try it (regrets....).

Overall, confusing setting, confusing menu, excellently executed, fantastic service.   

Would I go back?  Yes, I'm dying to try that cheeseboard.....

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Vanilla! Not so plain after all...

First of all, let me introduce myself - I love my kitchen, I love food and I love drink.  I work full time but spend lots of free time in the kitchen - I love it!  My husband and the rest of my street get fed all of my left over cakes, I hope they don't mind! This blog is basically a log of my kitchen adventures, for my pleasure and hopefully yours.

I come home from a day at work where it's clear to everyone but me that every problem with every tool in the Global Organisation I work for is my fault (clearly), I have a nice surprise waiting - a bottle of pure vanilla made and bottled on Grenada, how exciting!  I couldn't resist and opened the dark alcoholic, thick liquid for a big sniff - bloody gorgeous!

I love the kitsch label and the old coke bottle it came in....

Having googled my new kitchen acquisition, I have found that have myself West Indian Vanilla, which is made from the V. pompona strain of vanilla grown in the Carribean

I'm already planning a huge vanilla sponge cake with a big dollop of vanilla buttercream swirled over maybe with some strawberry jam in there too.... or perhaps some vanilla caramel to make a nice big squishy banoffee pie with?  Only time (and the weekend ahead) will tell.

Oh a vanilla and lemon pudding, sounds fantastic

If I had any followers I'd ask for some suggestions on what to make with my delicious vanilla - pictures of creations to follow.