Monthly Archives: July 2009

Baking Bonanza!

Last Saturday, I had a baking bonanza spending three hours in the kitchen making three different cakes. I did not do this just for fun, even though I do love baking when the mood takes me. My Mom, Elaine is trekking the Grand Canyon for Scope (the charity for people with Cerebral Palsy) in November and on last Saturday night, she ran a skittles night with Fish and Chip supper, with all the proceeds going to Scope. I decided to make some cakes that I could sell to people for pudding after the fish and chips. I also baked a cake which we auctioned off. By the way, my cakes will never win any awards for presentation, but they always seem to taste good!

I asked the people of Twitter for ideas for a chocolate tray bake. @BigSpud (link to his blog here), @Mapperz (link to his blog here) and @Wazzat (link to her blog here) made suggestions. I decided to go with @Wazzat’s recipe as it quite simple, easy to make and did not contain any nuts. I was slightly concerned about the possibility of people having allergies. The recipe is below and top chocolate cake picture is the finished result.

Choccy Tray Bake

Ingredients for the Cake
250g unsalted butter (I used President Butter)
300g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour
50g cocoa
100g milk chocolate drops/chips

Ingredients for the Topping
85g butter
85g caster sugar
200g light condensed milk
50g milk chocolate drops/chips + a bit

Butter and line tray bake (about 20×30 cm).
Heat oven to 180C/Gas 4.
Melt the butter, cool for 5-6 min and then add the sugar, vanilla,eggs – beating until smooth.
Stir in the flour, cocoa and chocolate drops/chips.
Pour into the tray and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean or nearly.
For the topping, Heat the butter and cater sugar together until melted.
Stir in the condensed milk and bring to the boil.
Cool for 5 minutes then stir in the 50g chocolate drops/chips to melt.
Leave to stand for 3-4 minutes and then spread over the COLD cake and scatter with the left over chocolate drops/chips

I also decided to make a Lemon Drizzle Tray Bake for those people who did not like chocolate or who wanted something to refresh their palates after fish and chips. I got the recipe from here. However, I decided to adapt the recipe slightly and add a whole lemon in to make it nice and sharp. (The lemon Drizzle tray bake is bottom of the four pictures) Both the tray bakes were a great success and everyone really liked them.

While baking in the afternoon, I decided that I would make another cake that could be auctioned off. I chose to make a chocolate chocolate cake recipe from Rachel Allen (in her ‘Bake’ book) that I have made a couple of time before. It is quite a light cake, as it has bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in it. You can get the recipe here from the Good Food Channel.(It is the third picture above) In total, my cake’s raised £10 for Scope. Stuart and I also did a ‘How Many Skittles in the Jar’ (see top picture) which raised another £10 for Scope. Every little bit helps, as the saying goes!

Good Luck to Mark Webber in the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix this weekend. Lets hope for another win after the German Grand Prix! I may not be posting anything next week, as I have come down with Swine Flu, that seems to be sweeping the nation at the moment. I am alright but not up much cooking. Normal service should resume shortly.

Happy Cooking!

On the Spice Trail

I know I said that I was not going to post a recipe until early next week. However, I got so excited about this recipe, that I decided to share it with you early. The recipe today is for my Chicken and Spinach Curry. This is a recipe that I invented myself. I am sure no Indian would recognise it as curry but this recipe always works for me. I was inspired for this recipe by both Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay. Rick Stein did a programme called ‘Food Heroes‘ a few years ago. (It is currently being shown again on the Good Food Channel) One of the programme’s was from Bradford and he made a curry there. Gordon Ramsay also made a curry on his show ‘The F Word‘ and both of them combined and an added Jo twist have led to the recipe you see below.

Chicken and Spinach Curry

Curry paste
2 tbsp balti/mandras curry paste
1 tsp onion salt or 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Small onion or 1/2 a large onion
4 cloves of garlic
Small piece of ginger
1 large chilli
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp cumin

Other ingredients
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 large onion or 2 small onions, chopped up into chunks
Chicken breasts (1 per person, cut into chunks)
1/2 a pint of chicken stock per 2 people
Spinach (optional)
Coriander, chopped (put stalks into curry paste and add chopped leaves near the end)


  1. Put everything for curry paste into food processor and whizz until it is a smooth paste.
  2. Put some veg oil in pan and heat up. Add paste to pan and cook for 30 secs to take rawness out of spices.
  3. Then add chicken and cover in paste. Cook for a minute or two in paste then add onions.
  4. Fry for a minute or two and add chopped tomatoes and stock. Stir occasional and let it simmer until thickened to desired consistency. (I like lots of sauce to dip naan bread into)
  5. Add coriander and spinach if using near the end of cooking.
  6. Serve with naan bread, rice and/or chips.

Please note: this recipe can be adapted for vegetarians. Just add the onions to the paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add tomatoes and stock. Stir and add desired veg and simmer in sauce until veg is cooked through.

If you would like to turn this into Indian feast, I suggest serving poppadoms and mint sauce as a starter. To make a really simple mint sauce, put half a carton of natural yoghurt in a bowl and stir in two tablespoons of mint sauce (the type you usually put with lamb), stir and enjoy! Thank you to my Auntie Kate for this simple mint sauce recipe.

As this was a midweek meal, I used shop brought naan breads. However, I will posting a naan bread recipe sometime soon.

Please let me know if you try my recipes, whether they were sucessful or not. I would like to know that my recipes make sense to people other than myself. You can leave a comment on the blog, tell me via Twitter or Facebook or you can now email on If my recipes do not work for you, I would like to find and help with the problem. You can also contact me with any cookery questions and I will try and help.

Have a good weekend. I’ve got a baking fest planned for tomorrow. (More on that next week)

Happy Cooking!


Curry on Foodista

Arriba! Arriba! Foodie Adventures in Mexico – Part 2

During the holiday, we did spend most of our time in the hotel to relax and chill out a bit. However, the whole idea of a holiday to me, is to try different foods and learn about a different culture to our own. Therefore, one day in the holiday, Stuart and I ventured into Playa del Carmen (the nearest town to the hotel) to get lunch and have a look around.

Playa del Carmen, unlike Cancun, only has 1 main road called 5th Avenue and a few side streets dedicated to the tourist industry. We chose a restaurant called the ‘Blue Lobster – Steak and Lobster House’ as it was one of only few restaurants that was not trying to drag you in to eat its food. The Blue Lobster is located just off the 5th Avenue. We were greeted by a very nice waiter, and were shown the menu, which was on a giant blue lobster. It is the most original looking menu I have ever seen. I wish I had taken a photo of it now – it was cool! You can see one in the photo above if you look carefully. The restaurant was quiet when we arrived and stayed quiet, while we were there. We did have an early lunch so we probably missed the crowd.

Eventually, after much discussion, Stuart and I decided to order the Surf & Turf Platter with steak, chicken, fish and prawns which was served a jacket potato each, veg, melted butter, tortillas, Mexican Salad (we call it salsa), habernero chili sauce and Chimichurri sauce (olive oil, garlic and chili.) I am not kidding, it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was gorgeous! The tortillas were the freshest I have ever tasted. It may have helped that we had the awful meal in Asian Restaurant in the hotel the night before (see previous post) and were absolutely starving! The food was so simple and delicious and the chili sauce was one of the hottest things I have ever eaten. The Mexicans can really do heat, which is great for a chili lover like me!

For dessert, I had Traditional Key Lime Pie which I have never tried before. This was chosen off a menu in the shape of a fish. It was lovely, really sharp but sweet at the same time. I was offered a free taster of an avocado pie which the restaurant was testing out. The texture of the pie was quite nice but I do not really like avocados, unfortunately. Overall – 5/5 on Jo Scale. I urge you to go to Mexico and try this restaurant out. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

On a different note, a very big congratulations to Mark Webber for winning the German F1 Grand Prix on Sunday. I always knew you could do it! Keep up the good work and good luck for the rest of the season.

My godmother, Rebbecca (who is on twitter @Squitherwitch) has created a forum and would like more people to join to contribute to the discussions on the site. I am already on there, with the user name of Jo6789. Many thanks. Your help and contributions are much appreciated.

My final point, is that I was mentioned on Radio 2 last night. I was chosen by Simon Mayo through twitter to choose the first song played on the drive time show, which he is covering for Chris Evans at the moment. The song I chose was Heroes by David Bowie, which is one of my favourites. If you would like to listen to it, you can listen to the show again here. It is in the first 1o minutes of the show. Thank you Simon for making my drive home from work more enjoyable!

A recipe (the first one in a while) will be posted early next week.

Happy Cooking!


Arriba! Arriba! Foodie Adventures in Mexico – Part 1

After a few weeks away from my blog, I am now back off my holiday to Mexico and my normal blogging service shall now resume. I have missed writing my blog and am very happy that I have time again to share things with you. To begin, I thought I would do a foodie review of the hotel I stayed in Mexico and then, early next week, I will tell you about an excellent restaurant I went to. Once I have done two Mexico posts, I will start putting recipes back up again.

The hotel we stayed in was called the Grand Princess Sunset, who has a sister hotel right next to door called the Grand Princess Rivera. They are both part of the Princess Hotels chain which have hotels throughout the Spanish speaking parts of the world. The hotel was located on the Cancun side of Playa del Carmen on the Rivera Maya.

View Larger Map

I am not going to do a normal review for this hotel because basically it is a normal five star all inclusive hotel, which you can find all virtually everywhere. However, I am going to do a review of the food and restaurants it provides for its guests.

I will start with the two buffet restaurants, Sunset and Rivera. These restaurants were generally quite consistent in providing good food. Some of it was a bit hit and miss – I did get undercooked pork and chicken once. However, most of the time, it was very good. They made fresh pasta on demand for guests and there was also a wide variety of food available, including local Mexican Specialities (such as refried beans – which myself or Stuart did not like – they are brown, yucky and horrible, sorry Mexicans, no offence!) and other food from around the world, such as Chinese and Thai food. Overall – 4/5 on the Jo Scale (1 = bad 5 = excellent)

The hotels combined had seven restaurants between them for use by all guests. Three of the restaurants, the International, French/Swiss and the Seafood restaurants were only available to Platinum guests. We did go to the other four during our stay.

The Grill Restaurant – Had good very attentive service. My Poisson was slightly overcooked and dry. Stuart had Pork rib with chili sauce, which he liked so much, he had again when we went the second time. The chili sauce was slightly too sweet for my own personal taste. I had lamb with rosemary at the second visit, but the rosemary was only in one spot on the lamb. This is me being really picky though, as it was generally good food. Overall 4/5 on Jo Scale

The Italian Restaurant – Had good but slightly too slow service. I had the Veal Milanese on my first visit and it was one of the worst things I have ever eaten. The veal was overcooked, but breadcrumb coating was greasy and burnt. I spoke to other guests in the hotel and they had the same complaint as well. Stuart’s spaghetti with seafood sauce was excellent but there was such a big portion, it was enough for four people. I had meat cannelloni the second time, which was OK but didn’t have much taste to it. Stuart had a pizza which was yet again, OK but nothing to write home about. Overall 3/5 on the Jo Scale

The Asian Restaurant – The service was very slow and not very attentive. They poured water in Stuart’s half full wine glass, as the waiter was not paying attention. We had a late booking that may not have helped. The spring rolls for starter were good, except I didn’t know what meat they contained. I tried sushi for the first time and discovered that I really don’t like it. Its awful! The soup (can’t remember what it was called) was OK but very spicy, so it burned on the way down. Stuart’s sweet and sour pork was OK but had a soggy bread crumb coating. My steak, onions and peppers had half a bottle of dark soy sauce tipped over it and was so yucky, I could not eat it. Even the rice was badly cooked! Overall 2/5 on the Jo Scale.

The Mexican Restaurant – was overall good. The service was excellent and very attentive. However, all the food they served was exactly the same as what was in the buffet restaurants. Our meal was slightly spoiled as we went to an excellent restaurant at lunchtime (see next post) so we were quite full. Our Pumpkin Flower soup for starter, was sort of like a vegetable soup with more peppers in it, was nice but very unusual. Our Fajitas were essentially good, but very greasy and it was quite a large portion. One fajita would have been enough to feed both of us. This is me being picky again, as the food was good. Overall 4/5 on Jo Scale.

That is it for my review of the hotel restaurants. The pictures above are of me, at Chichen Itza (Mayan archaeological remains) after a tropical rainstorm had soaked us down to and including our underwear! It was not nice, I will never complain about British weather again! The second photo is of a member of the hotel staff flaming a liqueur to go into a foamed coffee in a posh glass with a cherry on top. I had one and they were good but very strong with the alcohol. I went to bed very early that night!

On a completely different note, I am now writing my blog based on the writing rules and blog tips from the Elisabeth Winkler and her blog, Real Food Lover. I would like to thank her for her tips and rules, as I am still very new to the foodie blogging world and they have helped a lot. I recommend them to anyone new to blogging. I am also now a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher which is an excellent way for new foodie bloggers like me to encourage people to visit their blog. The UK Food Bloggers Association and The Foodie Blogroll have helped in bringing people to visit my site. I am making many friends too, which is a massive bonus!

That’s all for now folks!

See you next week

Happy Cooking!

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