Home Recipes Reviews Events About Contact

'twas almost christmas...

...and i was sorting out the finishing touches of my first ever christmas dinner. last year i was allowed to do the starter, but this year the whole thing. even breakfast! and i can't wait! :)

Lifestyle Brand Next Launch Christmas Cookware for Budding Bakers

Next are excited to launch their latest Christmas cookware additions to their 2011 festive collection. With the Great British Bake Off, National Baking Week and designer cupcake shops sweeping the country, baking mad Brits are keener than ever to make homemade treats in time to enjoy at Christmas.
Next’s own well-reviewed baking tools and kitchen essentials include hand mixers, blenders and knife blocks as well as quirky popcorn makers and chocolate fountains. There are also a great change of Salter vintage scales, Pyrex measuring jugs and mixing bowls and Tala pastry and cookie cutter sets.

For easy-to-make cupcakes, the Next Cupcake Maker at £20 is a pretty pink non stick machine which comes with a cupcake recipe guide and can make up to 7 mini cakes at once. What’s more, the vintage inspired cake stands and cake decorating sets mean you can add festive decorations and display them for your Christmas guests to enjoy.

Whether you make a Christmas cake, cookies or simply treat yourself to a box of liqueurs, the range of Christmas tableware including runners, centrepieces and dinner sets mean you can make your Christmas feast a special one.
What’s more, for the little ones who like to play pretend baking, the children’s toy selection at next.co.uk has ever popular pretend afternoon tea sets, kitchen accessory sets, toy mixers, cute aprons and the Moon Sand bake shop.

Shoppers can also enjoy the new Christmas delivery dates on Next’s new homeware arrivals, discover seasonal living room furniture such as newly arrived sofas or perhaps update bedroom furniture or in time for the New Year. With a 5 day delivery promise throughout the year, the Christmas delivery dates have been finalised as 14th November for Made to Order furniture or 16th December.

To enjoy the full Christmas cookware collection and enjoy the full baking range, click onto www.next.co.uk/christmas/

super duper brownies with white chocolate chunks

I made these for a Bake Off we had at work :) And here's how...

♥ 375 g soft unsalted butter
♥ 375 g best quality dark chocolate
♥ 6 large eggs
♥ 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
♥ 500g caster sugar
♥ 225g plain flour
♥ 1 teaspoon salt
♥ 300 g white chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line your brownie pan with foil or baking paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.
Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour.
Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
When its's ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

If you like these - you might like the Peyton and Byrne recipe for raspberry and coconut cupakes. Very lovely!

glitter buttercream cupcakes :)

simple cupcakes with buttericing and lots of pretty decorations. really too into making cupcakes lately, like the rest of the world.

these are decorated in silver balls, edible glitter and sweets galore!

me and my lovely friend meg polished these off not long afterwards.

thanks for stopping by my blog :)

door to door cupcakes: the baking couple who deliver sweet treats direct to city offices.

Just like following Hansel and Gretel's trail of crumbs, office workers in need of a sugar hit can now go online to track the progress of a man delivering cakes across Derby.
Tony Jacobs visits offices with a wicker basket full of cupcakes and other sweet treats made by his wife, Victoria, that are for sale.

And people can find out his location by logging on to the couple's website and looking at an interactive map tracking his progress.

Tony, 43, who delivers the cakes while Victoria, 39, spends the day baking, said: "Our specialities are traditional cakes like Victoria sponges and lemon drizzle cakes, but we've noticed cupcakes are becoming more popular.

"We like to keep it simple by doing three flavours and doing them well. We make hundreds of cakes a week in the flavours of vanilla, lemon and Belgian chocolate."

The couple, of Friar Gate, set up their company, Love Cakes, last year and began selling their bakery treats at Chesterfield market.
But their products have proved so popular that they no longer have time to run the stall, instead concentrating on orders and deliveries.
They pride themselves on natural British ingredients and do not use food colouring or any decorations that do not meet these requirements.

They use natural sugar sprinkles, homemade jams, get their eggs from Highfield Happy Hens in Etwall and fruit from Ted Corden's grocery in Derby Market Hall.

Tony said: "The other day we took an order for 18th birthday cupcakes with a homemade sugar photograph of the lad on his first day at school. We also once we had an order for 400 vanilla cupcakes and did them in the charity's colours. That was definitely an all-nighter."
They have a popular lime and coconut cake and their newest invention is Dancing Duck beer loaf cake, handmade with ale from Derby's Dancing Duck Brewery in Ashbourne Road.
This week their cake basket included Belgian chocolate loaf cake, apple and almond cake and vanilla cupcakes.
They also provide petit fours for the Mansion restaurant, in Midland Road, and take large orders for birthdays and weddings.
Much of their popularity has been through word of mouth and social networking site Twitter.
Tony said: "The amazing responses we get from around Derby always bring a smile. Victoria really has a passion for baking cakes and it really shows through in her little masterpieces."
For more information, log on to Love Cakes Derby ♥
Written for the Derby Telegraph and also posted on emily's recipes and reviews x

a slice of summer: food gusto festival

Forget digging to the back of the freezer for last year’s rocket lollies or declaring war on the spider family lurking in your dusty barbeque.
This summer, grab a slice of foodie heaven at the Food Gusto Festival this August Bank Holiday. All are welcome to nibble, glug, slurp and savour the best of British at the Appleby Magna event, which takes place at the stunning Sir John Moore Foundation on August 27.
Taste freshly cooked organic beef burgers, perhaps pig out on the tasty hog roast or get your five-a-day with a locally sourced vegetable box. For those with a sweet tooth, try Gopsell Farm’s famous apple crumble ice cream or discover the delights of Lou-la-belle’s charming cup cakes. Served, of course, with a cup of English Breakfast tea.
Or perhaps take a little piece of a Leicestershire country garden back with you. The Witches Garden is a North West Leicestershire herbery dedicated to knowing their fennel from figwart and mint from their marjoram.
Feeling inspired? Get stuck into The School of Artisan Food’s Cookery Demonstrations. Watch and learn how to make wood-fired bread, handraised pies, pates and terrines, Artisan chocolate and hedgerow cordials. You might even get a taste, if you’ve got any room left.
From 10-3pm, the festival is J11 of the M42. Free for children, £3 for adults or £2 with voucher from the Food Gusto website.
Pick up your copy of Leicestershire Life magazine for more about foodie events across the county.

from field to farmhouse: farndon fields.

Imagine sitting in a cosy farmhouse tearoom taking a bite of a deliciously warm roasted asparagus tart whilst sipping on an ice cold glass of Victorian lemonade. You think how convenient it would be if you could have it wrapped up, in a gingham napkin of course, and take it home for tea. Well, at Farndon Fields Farm Shop in Market Harborough you can.

Their try local, buy local shopping experience means that you can visit thinking you want a box of pretty pansies for your garden and discover they grow your favourite Leicestershire strawberries, all in one day.

It started back in 1983 when Kevin and Milly Stokes’s passion for potatoes and vegetables saw the opening of a small shop from their Market Harborough farm garage. By 1998 they had a purpose built farm shop extension, broadening their dairy selection, and making room for a locally stocked bakery.

Five years later and the 2000s saw the introduction of a butchery, cafe and plant centre to their 250 acre farm.

“It all started almost 28 years ago now and has quite literally grown ever since. We now grow over 40 different types of vegetables and 6 varieties of potato,” explained Milly.

Their homegrown seasonal produce currently includes a mouthwatering selection of raspberries, leeks and asparagus; which in this warm weather it can grow up to 6 inches during the night.

“We’ve had a great crop of strawberries this year as it’s been so hot and dry, which has made them really sweet. But then this proves a problem for growing potatoes, as they require really wet weather.”

Their assortment of cheeses for all seasons can be perfect accompanied by a range of alcohol, which boasts Langston Brewery beer, Welland Valley wine and Melton Mowbray Sloe Gin. With their Mediterranean inspired deli opening in the next few weeks, knowledgeable Deli Manager Liz has been sourcing tasty treats from chorizo and salami to an appetising olive bar.

“We’ve recently bought 9 pigs and feeding them on our waste vegetables hoping to begin selling our own pork. So watch this space,” Milly continued.

“Our staff have such good product knowledge and are always providing recipe ideas and hosting food tasters. Next week we’re going to be trialing some curry causes made locally for people to sample.”

Whilst Mike, their butcher, sources the very best of local lamb from Greenfields at Twycross, sponge cake expert Kim is busy in the baking fresh chocolate cakes and Victoria sponges every day for the cafe. Not to mention their cupcakes to conserves and juices to jams that fly off the shelves each week.

And food miles? Well, there are none. Nil, zilch, zero. Everything they sell is either produced by them on the farm or sourced from local farmers and experts around Leicestershire and the Midlands.

“This is what real local should be. We aim to give people a really personal shopping experience and get to taste allsorts of great Midlands produce. We like people to say ‘oh I really like this where can I get it?’ and then instantly be able to rustle one up for them to takeaway.”

“It’s just all about the fascinating process from growing the produce to eating it later on that day.”

Read more about other foodie gems in the Midlands here at Great Food Magazine.

swanky spag bol.

shopping list 
♥ your favourite cut of steak - i use either rump or sirloin
 ♥ around 75g of fresh tagliatelle or linguine pasta per person 
♥ half a dozen cherry tomatoes per person 
♥ 400g chopped tomatoes 
one red onion, chopped
♥ two cloves of crushed garlic
♥ a twist of black pepper
♥ a knob of butter

forget measly minced beef, 7p tins of pasta sauce and trying to pass off stale spaghetti as "al dente." some of us student types like to live in style. so here i present to you a posh(ish) alternative to good old spag bol with nice chunky cuts of steak, fresh pasta and homemade sauce.

begin by turning the hob to a medium heat and throwing half the knob of butter into a frying or grill pan. when the pan is nice and hot, place in the steak and grind a little pepper on top. try to only turn the steak once; around three minutes each side for rare, five minutes each side for medium and seven minutes each side for well done. when you are happy with your steak lay it to one side on a clean, flat surface to rest. (probably not a student worktop then).

next is to make the pasta sauce and cook the pasta. boil a kettle and leave the pasta to cook on a back hob whilst you have the pasta sauce on the go.

for the pasta sauce, use the remaining butter in a saucepan to soften the crushed garlic and chopping onions on a medium heat for a around five minutes. next tip in the chopped tomatoes and whole cherry tomatoes and leave to simmer for a further five minutes.

now that you have all the components ready for this culinary creation, slice up the steak into lovely chunks, discarding the fattier edges if you wish. it should be lovely and pink inside. unless you foolishly opted for 'well done', ahem.

next throw in the steak to the sauce and keep on a low-ish heat as to make sure it is all hot and cooked through but try not to cook the steak any further. drain the pasta ready to serve. if you like, add torn basil leaves, grated Parmesan or black pepper to taste.

and abracadabra, your new favourite italian dish.

oh and if you aren't already convinced, click on the picture of the finished result, where that particular time i used a mix of egg and spinach fresh pasta and rump steak. i feel like the thumbnail doesn't do it justice.

thanks for stopping by my blog :)

diy nando's.

Homemade DIY Nandos

This is a great feast for any party and can be adapted for any number of people or tastes. just like, well Nando's.

shopping list

chicken of your choice - here i used wings and two breasts
two large potatoes per person
block of haloumi cheese
pitta bread
nando's seasoning
plenty of olive oil

preheat the oven to 220 degrees and begin by cutting the potatoes into "chip size" pieces, as in the picture. leave the skins on for a crispy rustic taste. season with salt, pepper or any herbs you fancy, drizzle with olive oil and shake the tray until covered. these take around 45 minutes so put these in the oven first.

Homemade Chips

next, the infamous chicken. arrange your desired chicken pieces on a tray and use a dash of olive oil to get the seasoning rub to stick. i used official nando's lemon and herb on some and a schwartz "perfect shake" grinder on the others.

i believe you can also get nando's wild herb and garlic rub, bbq peri-peri rub, hot peri-peri
rub and, not for the faint hearted, xxhot rub. i bought mine in a tesco but you can also get it at the official nando's online shop.

Homemade Nandos Chicken

also you'll be surprised how cheap chicken pieces are in the supermarkets these days and yet how actually easy they are to cook. i got a tray of around 10 wings for just under £2.

the chicken takes around 25 minutes, so by now you should be on time for the chicken and chips to be ready together. turn your oven down slightly to around 200 degrees if you feel the heat is going to burn the chicken.

now, i'm not going to pretend i made the sides. i bought them. but if you're feeling keen, here are some coleslaw and houmous recipes. another side idea would be sweet potato mash. the houmous in the picture is actually an italian one with basil, pinenuts and garlic. it was, the industry would say, yum.

whilst you wait for the chicken and chips to cook, move onto the last minute preparations such as slicing up the haloumi and toasting the pittas. as the haloumi requires a grill and you will currently have your oven set to "oven" mode, the next bit can be quite tricky. unless you're lucky enough to have an aga.
you can either, take out the chicken and chips and serve whilst the haloumi is grilling (it only takes a matter of minutes). you could change the oven to grill mode, have the haloumi on the highest shelf and keep the other food in the bottom keeping warm. or, you could always just buy a new oven. it's a pretty good investment afterall.

serve and enjoy my peri-peri loving friends!

the sweet taste of success: my trip to a leicestershire dessert factory.

You might have enjoyed a Torta Della Nonna at an Italian restaurant – that may have been one of Vittles’.

You might have nibbled on a Banana and Honeycomb cupcake in a cafe – that could have been one of Vittles’.

And you might have indulged in a slice of Chocolate Junkyard from your local supermarket – that very possibly was one of Vittles’

Leicester-based family business Vittles are the undercover stars of the baking world. You’ve loved the products, but you’ve probably never heard the name. That’s because they modestly make their cakes for other people, and stay out of the limelight themselves.

And who would’ve thought that this booming business of delectable desserts had it’s humble beginnings 24 years ago in a two bedroom terraced house on Fairfield Street, South Wigston?

“Back then in our tiny terrace, we had to dismantle the oven and rebuild it inside as we struggled to even fit it through our front door”, said Julie Zalesny, founder and Managing Director of the business.
“We were making desserts for corner shops, pubs, coffee shops and delicatessens.

“Sixth months later we opened our first 1000sq ft factory and have since purpose built this 18,000 sq ft production line to create our desserts on an industrial scale.”

Now, as a crumbly cheesecake base is carefully measured into baking tins, next door endless rows of tangy lemon tarts are being iced, sliced and carefully placed in boxes ready for distribution to restaurants, hoteliers and food wholesalers all over Britain.

The Humberstone Lane business has recently signed a contract with a worldwide famous brand that will almost certainly double their turnover.
(No, they can’t say who it is.)

“Today we’re making around 350 to 400 cheesecakes, which is an average day for us. It ta
kes about a quarter of a ton of mix”, said Liam Skinner, Bakery Production Supervisor, as he proudly inspected the finished layer. This sweet smelling bakery section is responsible for the beginnings of cakes, sponges and biscuit bases.

Leading the overall team is Operations Director Peter Simpson, who has worked under the Roux brothers in London. “We probably make between around 1,000 to 2,000 cakes a day, not to mention all our other products. Though our Tarte au Citron is by far the favourite dessert that we do”, he said.

This lemon luxury is handmade using Spanish lemon fresh cream made from real fruit and dusted with fine sugar. It scooped a gold star at the 2010 Great Taste Awards along with their traditional Swiss recipe country carrot cake.

It isn’t just the lemon tart that is so lovingly prepared with such fine ingredients. From mousses to "mulsters", the array of afters are made from fresh British cream, cream cheese and dairy produce. It’s all British – apart from the organic Fairtrade chocolate, which is from Belgium.

The spotless British Retail Consortium BRC Grade A accredited factory employs around 40 staff, some of whom have been there since the very beginning. Hayley Giles, has worked there for 14 years dusting, sprinkling, delicately decorating and painstakingly trimming the finished products. Now I watch as she places mouthwatering mandarin segments on an Orange and Whiskey roulade.

With their “traditionally influenced innovations”, Vittles make lip-smacking sweets from Blueberry Crème Brûlée to Bread and Butter Tart and Chocolate Eclair Cake to Chocolate Trifle Mousse. Not to mention their appetising Asian inspired Matcha Tea Pudding, made with fresh cream and infused with a fragrant green tea.

What’s more, Vittles’ are seeing in the Spring with their new addition to the foodie family, Flowerpot Muffins. These dainty delights are a garden of gourmet cupcakes, which come in blueberry, chocolate chip or muesli.

So next time you’re digging into that double chocolate muffin, chomping on that cherry cheesecake or munching on some Millionaire’s shortbread, think of Vittles. It could be your exotic dessert is actually a little taste of Leicester.

Served with cream, of course.

Written by me for Leicestershire Life magazine's new food supplement, which makes it's debut this June.

Photo credit to Leicester Mercury Media Group.

haddock korma with jasmine rice.

shopping list
two skinless haddock fillets
two heaped tablespoons korma paste
half a tin of 400ml tin low fat coconut milk
a handful of chopped spring onions
a few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped stalks and all
♥ black peppercorns
one small fresh red chilli, finely sliced
one lemon cut into wedges
♥ basmati rice

white fish is a great, versatile base for any meal. but why just have it in batter? adding it to a curry or dishes with strong flavours is a tasty way to get your healthy omega oils, even for those who don't have a passion for poisson. this is also a yummy south east asian inspired dish that doesn't require having too much of an extensive spice collection.

start by rubbing half the korma paste and some black peppercorns into the fish fillets. leave this to really soak in for a couple of minutes whilst you follow the rice instructions and turn up the heat to get the pan nice and hot. then turn it down to a medium heat ready to go.

next add a dash of olive oil to the pan and place in the haddock steaks. the temperature should make the outer skin sizzle and lock in the korma paste coating. add the rest of the korma paste to spread on parts of the fillet where you see more of the white of the fish. after around 5 minutes, turn the fish and cook for a further 5.

turn the heat back up and throw in the sliced spring onions, chilli and coriander, followed by stirring in the coconut milk and a squeeze of lemon.

keep some of the chillis or herbs back if you wish to sprinkle these on afterwards. note, if you do this, the uncooked fresh chillis will be hot hot hot.

the rice should be done by now so give it a good stir and skim a fork round the sides of the pan whilst fluffing it up.

to best serve the fish, i laid the fillets on a plate with a portion of rice before pouring over the sauce as required. then making it look pretty.

this can be made similarly with cod, coley, pollack or monkfish. oh any another thing, with white fish you chose, be sure to look out for the sustainable labelling on any you buy.

for dessert, why not try making ras malai, a traditional indian dessert. :)