Recipe: Marmalade Cake

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


I'm such a sucker for packaging, you all know that. This shallowness also stretches to presentation and all things fickle. For me it's important to something to look nice as well as tasting nice, and as a result I tend to opt for fancy-pants cakes over plain looking ones. We're not talking garish here, hell, I have taste; but I'd rather have something layered with beautiful icing over a plain loaf cake.

Of course when it comes to matters of practicality I'm willing to be more lenient. I spend the majority of my summer in fields, and cake is often hard to come by. Just before heading off to Glastonbury, Olivia and I whipped up a batch of cakes. The criteria? To be able to endure being bashed up in a bag full of festival crap and last for 7+ days whilst still being delicious. Not as easy as one might think.

We spent too much a bit of time rifling through baking books in search of something wholesome and tasty, and eventually settled on Marmalade Cake from Cakes- Regional & Traditional (we also made Apple Cake and Honey Cakes too, but that's a different story). I'm not sure if I've talked about this book before. It was a present, quite a few years ago...and it sat on the shelf for a long while before I even looked at it. It's not particularly pretty or noteworthy, except for the fact that it's chock-a-block full of hundreds of recipes from all parts of the UK. On closer inspection Cakes is pretty impressive. It leans more to the sort of cakes that grandmothers make (the ones that always make you feel better and somehow can never quite be replicated) but if that's what you're after then it's definitely worth a buy!

We chose Marmalade Cake, as the marmalade keeps the rest of the cake nice and moist. Also, because marmalade is delicious. Oh, and the cake only has 6 ingredients. It's a win all round really. 


Ingredients
115g Butter
115g Soft Brown Sugar
115g Marmalade (cheap is fine, as long as it's got shreds!)
225g Self Raising Flour
2 Large Eggs
115g Sultanas


Method
Preheat the oven to GM3/150. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 


Add all other ingredients, and stir through with a wooden spoon until well mixed. 


Spoon into a greased average sized loaf tin. I like to put a strip of greaseproof paper across the centre of the tin, to use as leverage when getting the cake out! 


Bake for 90 minutes or so (check after about 70 minutes though, just to be safe) until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. 


Allow to cool for 30 minutes (or as long as you can be patient for) before turning out onto a wire tray and leaving to cool completely (or not). 


Eat and enjoy! 



Review- Zoukinis Vegetarian Restaurant, Westbourne

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I used to be a vegetarian. In fact, for about half of my life I lived that vegetarian lifestyle, chowing down on falafel and bean burgers a-plenty. These days I enjoy eating meat, I also enjoy eating fish; but the majority of my diet is still vegetarian, mostly due to the fact that it's cheaper, keeps longer and I know everybody (well most people) can eat it. I recently went for dinner with a whole bunch of friends, a few of who are vegetarians, and they chose the restaurant Zoukinis, in Westbourne.

I generally don't eat in Westbourne, although I'm not sure why. I guess it's the other side of the pond for me, and I get a bit stuck in my ways and eat at my local spots quite often; but I really enjoy it when friends recommend restaurants I've never visited before.

Zoukinis was a new restaurant to me; it's vaguely been floating around on the peripheral of my restaurant collection for some time now, but I'd never quite made it over there. A whole gaggle of us headed down one evening and tried out the majority of the menu.

(Posing in the outside seating area) 

So, although Zoukinis have a pretty small menu, with only 6 main courses on offer; what they lack in mains they make up for in starters, desserts and juices. The menu appears to change with the seasons, they also sell weekend breakfasts, have a variety of lunch deals, and run a Thali menu once a month. 

(Our table) 

Zoukinis has a lovely atmosphere, and the two ladies who served us were jolly, friendly and eager to please. They even endured our bizarre desire to take lots of group photos all over the restaurant, and happily took a couple of snaps of us too. The restaurant itself is kitted out in hanging fabric, comfy sofas and Indian scarf table runners. It's basically like eating at my mum's house, only nobody has to do the washing up afterwards.

(Delicious juices) 

Although my funds didn't quite stretch to allowing me to buy a drink (I spent way too much money on blankets in India), the juice menu at Zoukinis was mouthwateringly impressive. I'm a sucker for a juice, and the carrot zinger sounds delicious. Next time


Meze Platter- £12.95

I kind of cheated on my meal. I'm indecisive when it comes to choosing food. I like to think of it as a good thing, I don't think anybody else agrees. Basically if there's a way to have a bit of every dish, I'll attempt it. I'm forever harassing people into sharing dishes or leaning across people's plates to have a nibble of whatever they've ordered. If there's a meze platter on the menu, chances are I'll find some way to incorporate it into our meal. 

I opted for 'meze platter' (even though it was technically a starter, rather than a main meal), it's a pretty good deal, although a tad overpriced (in my opinion). You get to chose any four mini dishes from their selection; I decided to go for som tam (papaya salad), humus, olives and sweet potatoes. 

The plate came with flatbread (for dipping) and was a fairly impressive colourful feast. The humus had a great consistency, and was definitely a winner. Handmade humus can be a bit hit and miss, it often ends up slushy or grainy or tasteless! Yuk! This stuff was good though, a fair amount, and tasty scooped up with the flatbread. The olives were nice, not breathtakingly delicious, but not bland or squishy. The sweet potato fries were the real winner. Sweet potato seems to be cropping up a lot in my life at the moment, and can taste so awful if cooked wrongly. These guys obviously know what they're doing on the sweet potato front though, and these fries were chunky, slow-cooked and super sweet. The meze was definitely filling enough to be a main course for one, and the only let down of the dish (surprisingly) was the papaya salad, which tasted nowhere near as good as anything I ate in Thailand (unsurprisingly), but instead of being just a lesser version of what I expected, it was an oily mix of nondescript vegetables, topped with (slightly redeeming) triangles of sesame tofu. I'd give that one a miss next time. 

The other folk ordered a variety of dishes, which they all seemed to enjoy, although they enjoyed them a little too much for me to get a nibble! Next time eh?


Bean Burrito- £10.95 'Sweet potato, peppers & beans in a spicy smokey tomato sauce, wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and lightly baked, served with guacamole, jalepenos, sour cream & Zoukinis salad.

Despite looking nothing like a burrito, I heard good things about this one!


Toff 'N' Chips- £9.50 'Battered fillet of organic tofu packed with a samphire & watercress pesto served with chips, homemade minted mushy peas and tartare sauce'.


Baked Aubergine- £9.95 'Filled with goats cheese, sun blush tomatoes topped with a pesto crust served on a fresh green salad with a chive and white balsamic dressing. Layered with sautéed potatoes & served with a herb cream sauce and wilted spinach'.

     

Berry Berry Sweetheart- £5.95 'A selection of summer fruits, crushed meringues, with a Chantilly cream & raspberry coulis'.

Triple Indulgent Chocolate Brownies- £5.95 ' Rich and intensely chocolatey! With dark & white chocolate chips served with fruits of the forest sorbet'.

I made a massive judgemental error. A I opted out of dessert. What a mistake that was! Often I feel that I can't justify spending £4-6 on dessert, unless it looks and sounds exquisite. These desserts sounded like an Eton Mess-esque sundae and a brownie, but oh my, they tasted delicious. Top quality ingredients and perfect measures of quantities allowed these sweets to be truly decadent. I tried my best to slyly nibble my way through them, but I was definitely sussed. If you're going to Zoukinis, make sure you leave room.

(A fruity margherita)

The drinks menu is extensive, the juices look amazing, and the cocktail menu makes some twists on some old classics. The service can't be faulted, and I felt like we could (and did) stay in the restaurant for hours, without feeling like we were being a nuisance. They even sell Giggi's gelato! 

If you're a vegetarian or enjoy vegetarian food and you enjoy comfy over chic, then I'd give Zoukinis a try. The food is a little more than I'd pay for a general eating out experience, but for a birthday or other special occasion then the price is just fine (Starters for 1 around £5, mains around £10 and desserts around £5). Everything is beautifully homemade, and it's obvious that a lot of effort has been put into the meal choices. It's so nice to get vegetarian dishes that aren't an afterthought. 







Review- Tick Tock Honey Lemon Ginger Rooibos

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


We are borderline tea hoarders in this flat. Maybe borderline is an overstatement, but we have a hella lot of tea. To list all the varieties would probably be a little excessive and quite boring too, but we've got black teas, fruit teas, herb teas, loose leaf teas, speciality teas and imported teas. Our standard at the moment is Yorkshire Tea, we've got about 6 types of green tea and almost the entire line of Clipper fruit teas (I'm a sucker for their packaging...and taste). We've got a lot of Pukka teas too, which I bought and haven't touched since (they've all got liquorice in, regardless of the flavour, and I can't stand that stuff in tea, it goes all sickly and sweet, they look lovely though).
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the tea isle in supermarkets. I try and avoid going down it, as I usually emerge 15 minutes later clutching an armful of brightly coloured boxes that I most definitely do not need. Now and then I'll treat myself and have a sneaky wander down the isle, I did this yesterday and came out clutching a box of never-seen-before Tick Tock Honey Lemon Ginger Rooibos.
I really enjoy Rooibos tea, it's something I've only discovered in the past year or so, and inevitably my passion for it is growing. I've got a couple of the Dragonfly Rooibos teas, Vanilla and Earl Grey, and they're bloody delicious! When I saw Honey Lemon Ginger on the shelf I couldn't help myself.
Firstly, the packaging is beautiful. Tick Tock have a beautiful, bold signature design, and their style and colouring always reminds me of canal boats (weirdly). Secondly, I adore the combination of honey, lemon and ginger in anything...especially tea! I often get a sore throat (probably from talking too much) and I like a cup of something hot and soothing of an evening to unwind with.
Far from synthetic tasting, Honey Lemon Ginger has strong, natural flavours that complement the distinct rooibos taste, and I don't feel the need to add extra honey, lemon or ginger to create more of a flavour (which I tend to do with some of the weaker teas), and the fact that the tea is caffeine-free means that I can drink it before bed, and still sleep like a baby!
Honey Lemon Ginger won a Great Taste award in 2013 (and they're usually pretty good at choosing delicious things) and Tick Tock support the British Beekeepers Association for honey bee health research, I'm totally down with that. They seem to be fairly good folk all round really. The tea is only £1.99 for a box of 40 bags, and you seem to be able to get it at most supermarkets/health food shops. If you enjoy tea and the blissful combination of honey, lemon and ginger, then this one's for you!

Review: Cocio Classic Chocolate Milk

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Today I took a venture into the tiny Sainsbury's next to my bus stop. It's usually a less than productive trip. Last time I visited I ended up perusing the shelves for about 15 minutes, got flustered, bought a pack of peanut m&m's and left ( I don't even really like peanut m&m's); this time wasn't much better, however I managed to leave with something a little more exciting.
Strolling around the chilled section my eyes were drawn to a row of little glass bottles with yellow, vintage style labels. In an attempt to investigate further, I found myself clutching a bottle of Cocio, and for some reason I couldn't seem to put it down.
Cocio is 'classic chocolate milk', nothing new there; however it isn't full of horrible artificial tasting ingredients like a lot of the other premixed milkshakes. Made up of only three ingredients; milk, sugar and cocoa, this Danish drink is currently £1 in Sainsbury's (normal price £1.70), and I was inclined to give it a try.
Yes, I know I'm a sucker for packaging. The little glass bottle is reminiscent of school milk bottles, and the combination of this with the sleek, retro packaging means that this drink was on to a winner for me from the start.
After giving the bottle a quick shake, I popped the lid and gave the milkshake a try. Cold from the fridge, I was pleasantly surprised at the taste. Creamy but not too sweet, you can definitely taste the cocoa over the sugar, and the consistency is spot on, not too thick. Of course it's not quite diner standard, but for a pre-made milkshake from a supermarket chilled counter you could do much worse.
For £1.70 this little treat probably wouldn't make it into my basket, but at £1 I'd definitely buy it again. I'll be keeping the bottle too, it's too cute to throw away and I'm sure I'll create some concoctions over the summer to fill it with.

Review: Sprinkles Gelato, Bournemouth

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


                                      
'Breeze Freeze Sundae'

I like ice cream. Who doesn't? I like it more than the average person, and I like it to be of a high quality, preferably swirled with something delicious. Ben and Jerry's doesn't quite cut it for me anymore (I'll eat it if you're offering though, thanks!). Marshfield Farm is where it's at for the good stuff, failing that you can usually find a gem or two in the freezer section of Waitrose/Sainsburys. I'm definitely not adverse to a scoop or two of sorbet, and I'd have a small love affair with gelato, if he asked.

Bournemouth seems to have gone crazy for ice cream. There are ice cream parlours popping up left, right and centre; however Sprinkles currently holds the Bournemouth crown. Since opening a month or so ago, Sprinkles hasn't ceased to appear/be mentioned in some capacity on my newsfeed daily. We decided to take a trip and see what the fuss was about.

Met with a 10-15 minute long queue on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine, things weren't too bad, but they weren't great either. Half of our crew bagged a table while we waited in line. We flipped through the wipe-clean menu, selected our desserts of choice and waited to order.

Finally we reached the front and ordered 3 sundaes, 2 waffles and a smoothie. We were told they were out of a couple of ice cream flavours and offered replacements; we were then told there'd be a half an hour wait on our order. Fine.

Behind the counter erupted scenes of chaos, waffle mixture bubbled out of the machines and onto the counter. Truly living up to it's name, there were sprinkles a-plenty, although the majority seemed to be strewn across the back of the store, rather than on sundaes.
Impressively our desserts were served  about 15 minutes after we sat down, although one waffle and the smoothie were brought to us 10 minutes later.
There was silence as the team marvelled at the size of the sundae glasses in front of us and dug in.

I had ordered the Breeze Freeze Sundae, opting for fruity sorbet over chocolatey ice cream. The sundae is described as 'vanilla gelato, lemon and mango sorbet bedded on fresh fruit served with a florentine wafer and Vivaldi cigar'. Yes, it was a split second decision and at £6.95 I was expecting something goddamn spectacular.

Foolishly upon ordering I failed to ask what the 'fresh fruit' consisted of; when our order arrived at the table I encountered my first hurdle. Mixed in with the rest of the (dubiously fresh...probably frozen) fruit was a whole ton of pineapple. Now, I love pineapple but it has a tendency to make my face go numb and tingly, I decided to 'man up' and give it a go.

The sundae was good, but I'm sceptical as to whether it was £6.95's worth of good. All of the ingredients were of standard sorbet quality, although I'm pretty sure I didn't taste the vanilla gelato at all. Presentation wise, the sundae was impressive. Served in a tall glass, layered nicely and topped with the wafer-y bits, it looked lovely. However, who really needs that much ice cream? I started to lose interest fairly quickly, and only finished the dessert as I wasn't intending to watch seven pounds melt into the bottom of a glass. Half a sundae at half the price would have made me one happy Sunday-sundae eater.

I think the others felt similar.


Fererro Frenzy- 'Spoil yourself with an amazing blend of ferrero rocher, hazelnut and chocolate ice cream served with chocolate and caramel sauce, ferrero richer pieces, chopped nuts, whipped cream, florentine wafers and a vivaldi cigar wafer.' - £5.95. Was enjoyed, but too big for one person to really enjoy, as it instantly becomes a challenge. 



Sorbet Sense- 'Mouth watering fruit sorbets served with fresh fruit salad and topped with mango and kiwi sauce. - £6.95. I think it's a bit of a mixed bag here, a mystery selection of fruit and sorbets. Apparently the sauces were excessively sickly, but this sundae earned brownie points for the blood orange sorbet. 



White Chocolate Sensation- 'Fresh hot waffle served with sliced strawberry & banana, drizzled with our delicious white chocolate syrup & white chocolate flakes.'- £5.50.  I can't see any white chocolate flakes here, but... this waffle was enjoyed. 


I don't even know what this waffle was... it isn't on the menu. Super sickly, between us we still didn't finish it! 


An overpriced smoothie that, although looking impressive, was described as 'the worst smoothie I've ever had'. 

Our experience definitely wasn't enhanced by the atmosphere and our surroundings. The owners have gone for a loose American diner style theme, with booths and high stool seating in reds, blacks and silvers; I'm down with that. However, the tone of the trip was definitely lowered by the aggressive beats blasting out from a music channel being shown on a big screen on the wall, occasionally broken up by the sweet, sweet sound of...adverts? I'm assuming their main target market is families, and I'm not so sure I'd want to subject my (non existent) children to that much sugar and noise in one go. 

In summary, Sprinkles is probably a good place to go if you're killing time of an evening (it's open until midnight) and really fancy a whole ton of ice cream; but if you're looking for quality, value for money or atmosphere I'd head elsewhere- I'd pick Giggi's over Sprinkles any day! 

Recipe: Accidentally Delicious Lamb, Mushroom and Rosemary Casserole

Monday, 9 June 2014


Sometimes, and it happens ever so occasionally, I accidentally go ahead and cook something sensible. I think my cooking repertoire is a bit patchy in places, I can whip up a batch of scones or a lemon drizzle cake in minutes from memory, but I've never made roast lamb. I make a mean Bolognese, but give me a fish other than salmon, and I'd definitely have to look up instructions before cooking it for fear of accidentally poisoning my guests. I guess my poor knowledge of how to cook meat and fish stems from being a vegetarian from about the age of 13-20; I missed out on all those learning years of cooking, and as a result everything's been a bit trial and error since.

The other day I made my first casserole (in fact, I realised that I'm completely lying...I've made one other casserole in my life, and I wrote about it! Check it out here). It went surprisingly well. Turns out casseroles are quite possibly one of the easiest meals to make...as long as you've got the time and the patience to see it through. This casserole serves two, and the ingredients are rough guidelines- they're all things I happened to have in the house at the time. You can basically take out anything and replace it with something else and you'll probably still end up with something warming and delicious.

Ingredients
1/2-1 onion
30g flour
2 carrots
2 large potatoes
3 mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
A sprig of rosemary
50ml red wine
1 portion of lamb pieces (I used this pack of Waitrose lamb shoulder pieces, found lurking in the reduced section)
500ml stock (I used Boullion)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Method
Chop the potatoes, onions, carrots into thinnish slices, and the mushrooms into slightly thicker slices. Coat the lamb in the flour. Heat the oil in a casserole dish (or something that you can pretend is a casserole dish for the purpose of this recipe) on the hob. Add the lamb to the oil and cook until brown. Take the dish off of the heat, and remove the lamb (temporarily). Build a couple of layers of potato slices in the bottom of the dish, before adding the carrots, mushrooms, onions, lamb and remaining potatoes. Cram in a fair amount, and mix everything together. Throw in the sprig of rosemary and add the stock and wine. Give everything a bit more of a mix and top up with hot water if necessary (it's a good idea to submerge all of the ingredients in the liquid).

 

Cook for approximately 1 1/2 hours at 150 degrees. Eat.  

Recipe- Coffee and Walnut Cake

Sunday, 18 May 2014




It seems to be a controversial choice, but who'd have thought it? Coffee and walnut. They go together like fish and chips, right? Turns out not everybody likes coffee, and a hell of a lot of people are allergic to nuts.

But for those of you who aren't adverse to these two wonderful ingredients, I give you a brilliant recipe for coffee and walnut cake. Taken (again) from one of my favourite books, Cakes: River Cottage. To be honest I wouldn't ever go onto Amazon and buy it though (it's over a tenner), as you can just wait until The Book People sell the entire set of their 10 handbooks for £25- They’ve put the offer up a few times, and it is well worth waiting for, the books are brilliant! Until then, I hope this recipe will suffice and help to sate your cake-y desires.

The cake itself is quick to make, tasty and always seems to turn out exactly the same (it's nice to have a consistent recipe!). The only downside of this cake is that there are two types of icing to be made; of course this isn't a downside taste-wise, just in the fact that you have to make them both, and it creates double washing up. It's worth it though, promise.
The photos in this post were taken by the lovely Sue

Ingredients

Cake
-200g Plain Four
-1 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
-200g Unsalted Butter, softened and cut into small pieces
-100g Light Soft Brown Sugar (if you don’t have any, don’t worry too much- just double the caster sugar, although brown is best if you’ve got it as it caramelizes a bit and gives the cake a deeper flavor.)
-100g Caster Sugar
-3 Eggs
-50ml Coffee Essence (I never have this, and usually just make a tiny, super-strong cup of coffee.)
-100g Chopped Walnuts
-25-50ml Milk

Buttercream
-60g Unsalted Butter, softened and cut into small pieces
-125g Icing Sugar, sifted
-10ml Coffee Essence  (See above)

Icing
-200g Icing Sugar
-2 Tsp Coffee Essence
-50g Chopped/Whole Walnuts (depending on how you like to decorate)

Method

Cake
Preheat your oven to 180c (GM4).
In a small-ish bowl, sift and combine the flour and baking powder.

In a large bowl beat the butter to a cream (now’s a good time to get out the electric whisk if you have one!). Add the sugars and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time- followed by a tablespoon of flour after each addition.


 Beat the mixture well after the addition of each egg. When all of the eggs have been added, stir in the coffee essence. Fold in the remaining flour, half at a time, until well mixed.


Fold in the chopped walnuts, and a little milk, until the mixture comes together and gives a soft dropping consistency (falls off of your spoon like yoghurt).



Spoon the mixture into greased tins, I use a couple of 20cm round tins, and they work well for me; I think you’re supposed to use 18cm tins, and that would give you a super grand cake! Pop the tins in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (although check them after 20 minutes to be on the safe side) until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and resist eating. 




Buttercream
Beat the butter until creamy. Add the icing sugar to the butter, and beat until light and creamy, adding in the coffee essence as you go, little by little. You may not need to use all of the coffee essence, so add it sparingly as a little goes a long way! Check the mix is fully combined before adding more of the liquid, as you want the buttercream as solid as possible, whilst still being spreadable.  




Icing
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the coffee essence (and 1-2 tbsp of boiling water if needed) slowly to the sugar, whilst mixing. 



The icing should come together and be easily spreadable. Yet again, try and use the liquid sparingly to ensure a rich, thick and glossy icing.


When the cakes are cold, spread one with buttercream and sandwich the two cakes together.



 Cover the top of the cake with the icing, using a knife to smooth the top. Finish with the walnuts.


Eat and enjoy.