Sunday, 31 March 2013

Cream of cauliflower and Garstang blue cheese soup - recipe

I didn't start out planning to write about the soup that I made for a lunch last week, but it was so good and it is so easy and simple to make I just couldn't resist sharing it with you.

Cream of cauliflower soup with cheese added isn't a new recipe but its new to my kitchen as I have never made it before. I had a terrible yearning for it and with two fresh cauliflowers in the fridge and some amazing local creamy Garstang blue cheese to use it was a great excuse.

Garstang is a place in Lancashire, this blue cheese is a local cheese made in the county but sold countrywide; its fundamentally a Creamy Lancashire cheese made with pasturised (Lancashire) cows milk. It has a lovely creamy texture and a mild blue cheese flavour that goes perfectly with this soup.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dish of the Month - March Round up

Well folks that was March...blink and you'll have missed it...was it Spring like? No. Were we neck deep in snow in parts of South Lancashire? Yes! Was it another month that went in a flash? Yes! While we've been busy making and cooking lovely recipes from Nigel Slater, Nigel has been in Japan and if you don't follow him on Twitter I would because his pictures have been really interesting, a great insight into the culture and the food too.

For this March 'Dish of the Month' challenge we had a lovely little giveaway/gift form the folks at OXO Good Grips in the shape of a 2.8L Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl and a Medium Silicone Spatula.

And now Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen is back from cruising round the South of France she has picked a winner at random...and the winner is...Dom from Belleau Kitchen and star of ITV's Food Glorious Food!!!
Well done Dom, enjoy the gift, its on its way :-).

Here's the fabulous March round up...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Easter nest cupcakes - recipe

These yummy scrummy Easter nest cupcakes are just the thing to amuse the kids and to get them busy in the kitchen now they have broken up from school. A combination of a light moist chocolate sponge cake yummy chocolate crispie's, chocolate eggs and more chocolate to keep it all together...its choccie heaven.

These aren't hard to make but its a recipe in two halves, part one, the tops which are crispie cereal chocolate nests with eggs, and part two the lovely light moist little chocolate cakes that support the nest. Top tip; when making these is to make sure you grease the tins for the crispie nests VERY thoroughly (or use cake release spray) as the nests are tricky to get out, thats not a part of this recipe to let the kids do.

This recipe will make between 18 and 24 depending on how generous you are, and if any nests break...there may be nest casualties, no problem just eat those as you go along. If its snowing in your neck of the woods over the holidays add a dusting of icing sugar for authenticity!

PS. If you don't fancy these for Easter and post Easter are overwhelmed with chocolates and sweets, there is always a chocolate pizza to make.

Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Sweet fresh mussel soup - recipe

I have been trying to think of a really 'catchy' name for this dish using mussels but I've failed...miserably.

I made this dish a couple of weeks ago its the easiest thing ever but with such amazing flavours, I made Moules Mariniere using a recipe from the Fish is the Dish website (I didn't add the cream, I kept that for my soup). Then I made a delicious home made soup with a butternut squash and other tasty bits and bobs. It was the most sweetest and tastiest meal ever, the sweet spicy creamy soup topped with the sweet plump meaty mussels was just amazing!

The key to this, as with any memorable dish you can make at them is use the freshest ingredients you can. The mussels I used were really fresh and this made all the difference. I think some people are afraid to cook mussels at home but don't be, they are quick easy and safe if you stick to a few simple rules.
  • Before cooking, if they are fully open and don't close when tapped on a worktop, bin these. 
  • Once they are cooked if any don't open these also go in the bin. 
  • I always use mine as soon after I have bought them as possible, but they will keep in a fridge for a couple of days and 
  • I give them a good soak in fresh water and remove any 'beards' before I cook them.

If you think kids won't love these, then think again, when mussels are really fresh they taste very sweet, a real winner with kids. We are currently taking part in the 'Happy Healthy Hearts' initiative with Fish is the Dish, they are setting out to prove the health benefits of eating more fresh fish in our diets...there are lots of useful meal plans on the website (put together by a dietician) to inspire you at home, and brilliant bloggers just like me are doing our bit by being creative in our kitchens with fish.

"Fish is the Dish's Healthy Happy Hearts Challenge has been designed with the aim of getting families in the UK to make a commitment to eating fish at least twice a week. Research has shown that eating fish just twice a week can help raise levels of omega-3 in the body, a 'good' fat that is essential to our diets. Omega-3 has been associated with brain development, joint function, healthy skin and eyes as well as better mental health. It is even believed to significantly reduce the chances of developing conditions such as cancer and heart disease. From healthy hearts to healthy minds, everyone can benefit from increasing their omega-3 intake".

Sunday, 24 March 2013

'Delia's Cakes' - book review

Delia Smiths new book called simply 'Delia's Cakes' is out and riding high in the food and drink books charts at the moment. I have a few books in my collection by Delia, I quite like her work and the recipes I have tried from other books seem to work well, she's a bit of an 'all rounder' in the kitchen, but I think it was in 1988 that she last brought out a book just about cakes.

This book has such notoriety it has its own facebook page, worth a look for ideas, recipes and giveaways etc.

The book is divided by chapters into sponge cakes, loaf cakes, family cakes, little cakes (includes scones and the like), muffins, biscuits (since when has a biscuit been a cake though?), chocolate cakes, celebration cakes and dessert cakes. I liked the celebration cake chapter, some good ideas there for adults cakes. There is a section at the front about tools to use in baking and several pages on ingredients and a nod to the gluten free and egg free recipes in the book. (Dear readers please note: always good to have an egg free cake recipe to hand when out of fresh eggs at home)

The appearance of the book is very minimal and almost clinical with its mostly plain washed pastel backdrops to style the cakes; but this way the cakes do all the talking on the pages. Every recipe has a photograph alongside it, great if you are a novice or not that confident at following a recipe without one.

This carnage below isn't from Delias' book, that my kitchen in full baking cake mode.
 From this book and last weekend I tried one of the most simple cakes ever (but its my favourite) a Victoria sponge and in 'Delia's Cakes' this one has a cream cheese and passion fruit filling (see above). The recipe went really well, and without a hitch, the recipe for the cake suggested a 2 egg sponge mix but being the 'gung ho' greedy baker that I am, I doubled the mix. This gave me a very deep cake! It was a great flavour and texture and the filling was really delicious too.

'Delia's Cakes' is linked in to the Delia online cookery school. In the interests of research I had a mosey on over there, to see what the deal was. This site is quite a good resource for home bakers, it has recipes like this 'sticky prune and date cake' and simple and clear tutorials on baking (Delia provides the commentary) and its FREE!

Good things about this book are:
  • the recipes are easy to follow
  • the recipes cover both basic and traditional bakes
  • there is a good and wide range of cakes
  • according to the book cover, over 90% of the recipes can be made as gluten free
  • the photography is good
  • some of the newer and less traditional recipes look very good
All in all I liked the book, it would be a pleasing addition to anyone's recipe book shelf but for someone relatively new to baking it would tick a lot of boxes, and I think that's the market this new 'Delia's Cake' book is aimed at.

The only thing I didn't like was the biscuit chapter, nothing wrong with the recipes there from what I have seen, but in what is claimed to be a 'Cake' book it seemed a bit strange?

Some extracts from the book below...
'Delia's Cakes' is published by Hodder and Stoughton, who kindly sent me a copy to review (my thanks to them).

Sunday, 10 March 2013

'Dish of the month' March - Nigel Slaters' Chocolate muscavado and banana cake

Its March already! Its only 9 months to Christmas (I know!!) and we are a quarter of the way through cooking our way through Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries II and getting you to join Janice at  Farmersgirl Kitchen and I along the way.

When I read the forward to this recipe by Nigel Slater I was so in line with his thinking I just had to make this recipe. Nigel discusses fresh bananas and how he likes to eat them, he does not like a banana too ripe does the lovely Nigel, and I don't either. So in this household some bananas never make it as they have just gone past their best for eating, at these times they are either binned or made into something that transforms them from a skanky over ripe banana into a lovely piece of heaven. Thats what Nigel's recipe for chocolate, muscavdo and banana cake does. Nigel makes a full size loaf cake with this recipe but I decided to make mini cake loaves with the same recipe and just cooked them at a lower temperature (170C fan)  and for less time (25 mins).

The recipe turned out really well, and the flavour of the cakes was great, and making them like this meant there were lots to giveaway.

If you take part in 'Dish of the Month' for March you have the chance to win a giveaway that has kindly been supplied by OXO entrant will win a 2.8L stainless steel mixing bowl and medium silicone spatula. The winner will be chosen by random number generator when the Linky closes on 28th March 2013. This draw is open to UK residents only but you can join in with 'Dish of the Month' wherever you live.

If you want to join Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and myself baking our way through Kitchen Diaires II in 2013 we would love to have you join us.

You can link up with either this blog or Janice's blog below this post.

You can also see all the entires as they happen by following this challenge on Pinterest here.

  • Make a 'Dish of the Month' from ANY recipe by Nigel Slater
  • Link back to this blog or to 'Farmersgirl Kitchen' 
  • Use the Dish of the Month logo (above) in your post
  • If you use twitter, tweet your post with @Heavenona_Plate OR @serialcrafter and #DishoftheMonth hashtag and we will re-tweet it to our followers. 
  • If you own a copy of The Kitchen Diaries II please do not publish the recipes on your blog without permission, they are copyright.
  • If you are using any Nigel Slater recipes from the BBC Food website, please link to the recipe on BBC Food rather than publishing the recipe.  Likewise with any of Nigel's recipes on the Guardian website.
  • Only one entry per blog please.
  • Recipes must be added to the linky by the 28th of each month.
And remember to add your Dish of the Month to the linky below this post:

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Making marmalade to competition standard - tips & labels

Making marmalade takes skill, time, judgement and patience, you will need to practice if you want your marmalade to be good enough to enter a competition with. Some of the people entering these competitions have been making marmalade for years and are very skilled, you will be up against a tough and an experienced bunch. Be warned once you start practicing it can become very addictive, very this house its been woman versus marmalade for weeks and woman was going to win! (and I am not a competitive person, trust me)

So here are my top tips from what I have learned so far...along with some photos taken from the day I spent with like minded preserving fiends Vivien Lloyd, Karen Burns Booth and Charlotte Pike in February this year. Making preserves with like minded people is a great way to spend a day and you learn so much too. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cake International Manchester - 8-10 March 2013

Cakes by Tracey Mann who specialises in chocolate fondant creations
Cake International hits Manchester this weekend and I was invited to go along and have a look at what's going on there...I was really pleased to be invited as this is the first time cake international has been to Manchester. In the past it has been an NEC Birmingham based event, I have travelled to see it in Birmingham, but I liked Manchester today better, it was less crowded, easier to park (parking is free), easier to get drinks/food, easier to shop (there are over 100 stands to buy from) and the workshops seemed more accessible too.

Cake international is on all weekend, it costs £12 to get in for adults. Its at Event City in Manchester (near the Trafford Centre) If you want to enter any of the cake competitions you are too late now, but this is a great place to go for inspiration, to learn and to stand in awe of the creativity of cake decorators and sugarcrafters from the UK and all over the world.

Here are some highlights...a mere snippet of whats on offer!
Guest appearances by Mary Berry, Mitch Turner and Lindy Smith (to name but some)
You can try your hand at lots of different techniques for decorating cakes and learn from the British Guild of Sugar Craft tutors and specialist suppliers too. Stallholders generally demonstrate some of their products, and will give you ideas on how to use them, as well as selling everything you need to make your cakes spectacular.
Making chocolate rose petals, fondant roses, icing techniques and tips, and sugarcraft flowers

If you can't find what you are looking for here you won't find it anywhere from cake tins to tools to books, magazines, adornments for cakes or chocolate and even ready made cakes for you to take home and decorate yourself.
Cake ribbon heaven
Cake international is also about cake competitions at a very high standard, there are different classes you can enter and each class has a winner and then there is an overall winner too. The classes are judged to a very strict criteria and entries can come from all over the world.
Butch the bulldog was a fabulous cake
These are all actual cakes by the way, and if the judges have any doubt then they cut into the cake, just to be sure!
The tiered wedding cakes are really breath taking.
As well as the larger and character cakes there is a children's category and a g√Ęteaux category and an Easter themed one, and of course...cupcakes too.
The little girl on the right is Elisha Lee Latham and she is 6 yrs old and thats her cake bottom right.
I am so pleased Cake International has come to Manchester, if you like cake decorating like me you will love it just as much as I do...I was very pleased to be invited to this event as a guest of One Voice Media.
If entering the cake competitions and all that cake envy gets too much, have a massage and grab a brownie.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Chocolate, marmalade and ginger cake - recipe

Its national marmalade week and here is a recipe to suit the occasion, not that we need an excuse to use up marmalade in this house!

This cake is packed with a chocolate punch as it contains cocoa powder and chopped dark chocolate too. Its a rich chocolate almond batter base with added marmalade, orange zest and chopped cristalized ginger. Its a great way of using up homemade marmalade in a cake, but the marmalade doesn't 'have' to be homemade.

In this recipe I have used marmalade from a jar of Mackays orange marmalade with champagne. Even though I love homemade preserves best of all, I could quite happily eat this marmalade, its a lovely colour and packed with fruit and flavour. These preserves are still made using traditional copper pan methods in Dundee, Scotland and Mackays are the only company to still do this.

Here is how you make this cake...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Worlds Marmalade Awards 2013 - the results are in!

I had a lovely day out at the Worlds Marmalade Awards at Dalemain in Penrith, Cumbria this weekend. The awards last over two days and this is the eight year of the awards; entries to the various categories come from all over the world and this year there were over 1,900 entries in total. The most ever!

Dalemain Mansion and gardens are near Ullswater, Penrith in Cumbria. This historic house and gardens contains a wealth of Tudor and Medieval rooms and buildings. There is a tea room and a small shop; the main mansion house has a courtyard and during the weekend of the awards stallholders have a small marketplace selling a fabulous selection of quality goods. Here you will find everything from jam jars to pottery to preserves to peruvian rigs. There is also a lot of marmalade on sale from various producers, including the Dalemain Mansion brand.