Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fresh From The Oven: Kringel

This month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge was chosen by me and I was quite nervous about it. Would everyone like it? Should I do something that I have done before or should I be brave and choose something new for everyone? In the end, I decided to try something new for everyone and as soon as I saw Kringel, featured on the Hairy Biker’s Mum’s know best BBC series, I knew I had found this month’s challenge.

Kringel is an Estonian sweetbread made with butter, raisins and chocolate. The Hairy Bikers also suggest a savoury version using cheese instead. For the challenge, everyone could do what they wanted, either savoury, sweet or if they wanted too, have a go at both. I decided to stick with the original sweet version.

Overall, I think the Kringel worked out quite well. I used dried yeast instead of fresh and halved the quantity. My only problem was when I tried to shape it into a B shape, there did not seem to be enough dough to make it, therefore I ended up with a ‘polo’ shaped bread (round with a hole in the middle). This did not seem to affect the taste at all, as my work colleagues loved it. It seemed quite similar to Stollen and it is something I intend to make again.


Ingredients (Makes 1 Loaf)


  • 40g fresh yeast (I used 20g dried yeast)
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 250ml milk, lukewarm
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 600-700g flour (I used 600g plain flour)


  • 100g butter, softened
  • 3 handfuls of raisins
  • 10 tsp sugar


  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)
  • 75g butter


Mix the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add the lukewarm milk and egg yolks, then mix in the flour and melted butter and knead well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°c/Gas 6. Dust your work surface with flour. Take the dough out of the bow, knock it back and roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Spread the softened butter evenly over the rolled sheet of pastry, then sprinkle with raisins and finally sugar.

Roll up the dough like a swiss roll and cut it in half with a sharp knife. Starting from the uncut end, plait the dough, lifting each half over the other in turn. Finally, shape the plaited bread into a B shape and transfer to a buttered baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

In the meantime, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and butter in a bowl over boiling water. Once out of the oven, let the bread cool down a bit, place on a serving plate and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Cheese Kringel

To make a savoury version, leave out the raisins and sugar and sprinkle the Kringel with grated cheddar instead. Add more grated cheese on top instead of the chocolate sauce.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Kiss Me Cupcakes Cupcake Course

As some of you may remember, in my New Year’s resolutions, I said that I wanted to learn how to make and decorate cupcakes. Therefore, when I saw that a local cupcake company, Kiss Me Cupcakes was offering cupcake making and decorating courses, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. My friend, Marie offered to come with me as well.

Kiss Me Cupcakes was set up a couple of years ago by Dali and Mary. They are currently in the process of trying to set up their own café and shop in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.  The course was held at a community centre in West Bromwich and there were four students on the course; Marie and I, Linda and Anna. Dali was unable to be around for the majority of the course so we were taught by Mary.

We were welcomed with tea, coffee and pastries and a pack containing all the information we would ever need to make the perfect cupcakes.  Once everyone had arrived and had a drink, we were then told to get ready to start by putting on aprons and lovely blue hairnets. We all looked very fashionable as I am sure you can tell!

We went into kitchen to start baking and this is where I fell in love. I have always wanted a Kitchenaid stand mixer and we were using them to make the cupcakes. I was in heaven and now having actually used a Kitchenaid mixer, I want one even more! (Hint, Hint!) I am not going to share their perfect cupcake recipe with you, as I think they are such lovely ladies, you should go on a course and meet them for yourselves. However, I will share a couple of tips they gave us for the perfect cupcake:

  • Use silicone bake wear (I am now using this from Amazon)
  • Get an oven thermometer (all ovens are different, get this to check your oven is at the correct temperature – ideal for all baking)
  • Shake cupcake tray to even out mixture and ensure an even rise on all the cupcakes

Once we had made the cupcakes and they were in the oven, we made the buttercream to top the cupcakes with. This meant more playing with the Kitchenaid mixer. It was great fun! Once we had made the buttercream, we then got to choose a colour to put into it. Marie and I went for purple and Anna and Linda went for a lovely tangerine colour. The cupcakes came out of the oven to cool and we were given some more cupcakes to practice our piping technique on. I turned out not to be as bad as I expected, which I was surprised at. I am not good at doing ‘neat’ anything. Marie, Anna and Linda were all good at piping too.  We discovered that a star nozzle is better if you aren’t as neat as you could be. The round nozzle which was more modern looking but less forgiving if you made a mistake.

After our practice piping session, we had a break with more coffee and pastries and had look at the many different kinds of sprinkles and other cupcake decorations you can get.  This inspired us to get creative after the break with our own cupcakes. Mary made a lovely butterfly sugarpaste decoration for each of us. It was lovely and very delicate.  After we had decorated the cupcakes, it was time for us to tidy up. We all left at the end of the 3 ½ hours very happy and clutching a box of beautifully made and decorated cupcakes. It was a fantastic morning and I would love to do it every Saturday! Thanks to Dali and Mary for running the course :-)

Nova Chocolates

A while ago, I was sent a sample of chocolates from a local handmade chocolate company based in Shropshire called Nova Chocolates. You can see how long ago it was, the chocolate is from the Valentine’s range! Sorry to Jacqueline and Rebecca for the delay in putting this up. The chocolate is delicious and it is so rich and creamy and available in all different shapes and sizes. They do chocolates for all occasions too. I urge you to give them a try!

Happy Cooking! :-)

West Midlands Foodie Blogger Meet Up

Image by Wendy from Peters Yard

As I am sure I have told you a few times before, I am a member of the UK Food Bloggers Association. On the UKFBA I have set up a group for West Midlands based food bloggers which currently has 25 members. Last Saturday, we held the first of what I am hoping will be many meet ups at Loaf’s HQ (otherwise known as Tom’s (Director of Loaf) house  in Cotteridge, Birmingham. Along with Tom and myself, Charlene of No Love Sincerer, Louise of Comida y Vida and Wendy, one of the Managing Director’s of Peters Yard all came to join in the fun.

We started with introductions and how we had all got into blogging and then we got tucked into the food. For our starter, Wendy had brought some Peters Yard crispbreads which she served simply with butter and the most fabulous goats cheese from Brockhall Farm in Shropshire. The crispbreads were fantastic;  so crisp, crunchy and full of flavour, unlike any other crispbread I had ever tasted. The goats cheese, that is made fresh everyday by Sarah complimented it beautifully as it was really rich and creamy. The perfect contrast to the crispbread.

Image from Peters Yard

Once we had munched our way through a large pile of the crispbreads and goats cheese, it was time to get down to the serious business of our main course. Tom has a wood burning oven in his garden and we used it to make pizzas. Tom had prepared the dough before we arrived and he showed us how to roll it out the dough and put in on a board, to go into the oven. we each made our own pizza with whatever toppings we wanted and then Tom showed us how to get the pizza into the wood fired oven correctly. I nearly tipped mine into the oven and turned it into a ball so Tom had to step in and lend a hand. We all shared each other pizzas and talked about food, life and blogging.

After eating our pizzas, which were honestly the best I have ever tasted. They were so quick to cook too. They only took 2 minutes in the oven as it was so hot, we went back inside and tucked into pudding. I brought along, one of my family’s favourites, Rocky Road (recipe here), Louise brought along some carrot cake (recipe here) and Charlene brought some home-made scones that were so delicious, you would never of known that she had never made them before. The scones were served Tom’s home-made hedgerow jelly that complimented them beautifully. We then toasted to the success of our first meet up, with a glass or two of lovely Spanish red wine that was kindly donated by Louise.  We discussed the future of the West Midlands foodie bloggers group and we decided to turn it into a Midlands group for all the foodie bloggers in West, East, North and South Midlands. So if you live in any of these areas or on the borders and would like to join us, please do. The link to the group is on top of the page. I am also going to create a Facebook group to compliment the group on the UKFBA so I can update people on news more easier. I will let you all know once I have set this group up.

If you would like to know what Louise and Charlene thought of the event, please see their posts here and here. I would like to thank everyone for coming and especially thank Tom for agreeing to host. I would like to thank Wendy for supplying us all with a sample of crispbreads to take home with us. I have been eating them all week at work for lunch. Thank you all again and I cannot wait for our next meet up in the summer. :-)

And the Winner is…

Last week, Jo’s Kitchen reached the great milestone of being one year old and I decided to celebrate it with a giveaway of two cookbooks. The two cookbooks are ‘Maze – The Cookbook’ by Jason Atherton and ‘Chicken and Other Birds’ by John Torode. In total, there were 36 valid entries into the competition and I used to randomly generate the winning comment number. (See image above)  I am now pleased to announce the winner of the two cookbooks is Susan Mann. Susan, if you can please email with your address and I will post the cookbooks to you sometime over the weekend.  Thank you to all who left lovely comments celebrating my blog birthday.

Until next time, Happy Cooking! :-)

Cookbook Review: Bake and Decorate Tea Time Luxury by Fiona Cairns

In January I made a New Year resolution about wanting to learn how to decorate cakes and cupcakes, so a few weeks ago; I jumped at the opportunity to review the new cookbook by Fiona Cairns called ‘Bake & Decorate Tea Time Luxury’. It is her first book and in it, she shares her secrets for baking and decorating beautiful cakes.

Her company, simply called Fiona Cairns, bakes and decorates 750,000 cakes annually for Waitrose, Harrods, and Selfridges and has supplied Fortnum and Mason for the last 15 years.  She has also made cakes for Bono, Pink Floyd, Simply Red and she makes Sir Paul McCartney a Christmas cake every year.  These are good credentials in my opinion for writing a cake baking/decorating book.

The cookbook is beautiful in its layout, with simple and well thought images that show the cakes to their full potential.  The book is split into two sections, one called ‘Bake’ and the other ‘Decorate’.  In the ‘Bake’ section, there are many easy to follow recipes for different types of cakes and biscuits, including, family chocolate cake, Battenberg cake, very lemony crunch cake, gingerbread biscuits and for the more adventurous, chocolate and beetroot cake.  In the ‘Decorate’ section, there are lots of ideas and tips for how to decorate the cakes and biscuits in the first section for any occasion.  Some of Cairn’s ideas include a sweet shop, a summer garden, a giant cupcake, penguin cake, and a gingerbread man cake.  She even gives you a few ideas of wedding cakes. The book is full of inspiration for the amateur or the experienced cake baker and decorator.  I will be trying out some of the decorating ideas myself for events throughout this year.

To test the book properly and make sure the recipes work, I decided to make the Victoria Sponge cake recipe. Fiona’s version is above and mine is below.  The recipe was simple and easy to follow, with instructions for with and without electric mixers. I used a hand whisk and it was easy to mix together. I did not use cream in my version. Apologies for the photo of my version, it is on a lid of container as I took it to work the next day for my colleagues to eat. It is a very light and yummy cake to eat. It is delicious!   I have reproduced the recipe below with full permission from Quadrille Publishing. The book is released on 19th March and can be purchased from Amazon here.

Many thanks to Emma at Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book to review. It is much appreciated.

Bake and Decorate: Tea Time Luxury

Fiona Cairns

Quadrille Publishing

19th March


Victoria Sponge

Ingredients (Serves 8)

For the Cake

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Filling

  • 150ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam
  • Icing sugar, to dust


Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/350°F/gas mark 4

You can choose to cook this cake either in 1x 20cm sandwich cake tin or 2 x 20cm sandwich cake tins. Butter the tin or tins, then line the bases with baking parchment. If you use just 1 tin, line the sides with a 7cm high collar of baking parchment as well, to allow for rise.

For this batter, I use an electric mixer with a beater attachment, but use a food processor, or a bowl with an electric whisk, if you want.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, the add the butter (in knobs), the eggs, the sugar and the vanilla. Beat together until thoroughly blended, taking care not to over mix so you will have a light sponge. Scrape the bowl into the tin or tins and level the top.

Bake for 20-25mins if using 2 tins or 30-35 minutes if using 1 tin, until the cake springs back into touch or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes, then run a knife around the rim to loosen the cake from the tin and turn out onto a wire rack. Peel off paper and leave until completely cold.

Lightly whip the cream until just thickened into soft peaks. If you have baked cake in 1 tin, split into half horizontally with a serrated knife. Fill with jam and cream and sandwich together so the cream forms the uppermost layer. If you have baked the cake in 2 tins, be sure to sandwich the flat bases together. Dust the top with icing sugar.

PS: Don’t forget to end my giveaway. You can win two cookbooks. All the details and how to enter are here.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Happy 1st Birthday!

Today, Jo’s Kitchen is 1-year-old. I cannot believe I have been blogging for a year already. It has gone so quick.  I would like to thank my family, friends, work colleagues, fellow food bloggers and most importantly, Stuart for all their love and support. I could not have done it without you. I would like to thank you, the readers of my blog, I could not have done it without you either. Your help, support and comments are much appreciated and I always welcome your feedback.

A year ago today, I started this blog (it was on Blogger then) without really any clue as to what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to share my recipes with the world. Blogging has now come to mean much more than that to me and has opened my eyes to a whole new world of foodie adventures and lots of new people. I hope to continue this trend in the next year and beyond.

To celebrate, Jo’s Kitchen being 1-year-old, I am having my first giveaway. You can win two cookbooks and all you need to do is leave a comment on this post. The two cookbooks are ‘Maze – The Cookbook’ by Jason Atherton and ‘Chicken and Other Birds’ by John Torode. The giveaway is open to UK residents only and to be entered into the giveaway, you must leave a comment on this post by Tuesday 16th March 6pm GMT. I will then use to find a winner from all the comments left. Any questions, please let me know via email at (The giveaway is now closed and the winner will be announced on the post on Thursday 18th March. Thanks to all who have entered)

Thanks again for all your support and friendship this year. It is much appreciated. Until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

My First Michelin Star!

Picture from Flickr

Not my first Michelin star obviously – my food is never ever going to be pretty enough to make that standard. What I mean is that this post is about my first visit to a Michelin starred restaurant. When I was in Chester in January, we went to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor. Simon started out at the Chester Grosvenor when he was 21 years old as a junior chef and got his first Michelin Star in 1988 for the Chester Grosvenor and he has kept it ever since. In 2008, they renamed the restaurant, which was called Arkle to the Simon Radley Restaurant.

We had an 8pm on a Saturday night booking that I had managed to book only two weeks before. We were warmly greeted by friendly staff and sat down in a very cosy bar area, with big sofas and coffee tables. Our drinks order was taken promptly (Stuart – red wine, me – champagne (well why not!)) and nibbles were brought straight to table. These included olives, dates and cashews. We also had a Taster plate of cheese bon bons, breadsticks with pesto, root vegetable crisps and some interesting paprika popcorn. We both decided to have the tasting menu and we were invited to our table in what can only be described as a private dining room that was absolutely buzzing with staff moving around the room, very efficiently and promptly. Once at our table, our white wine was brought over. It was a sommeliers choice bottle but I cannot remember which one. We were then given the choice of what bread we wanted and there were at least 20 options. I had the white farmhouse, as wanted to see if they could do simple well and Stuart had olive bread and cheese bread. All the bread was very fresh and very well made.

The eight course tasting menu then started coming out. We were served very efficiently and promptly, like a military operation, with three members of staff serving us each time. I forgot to take a photo of the menu so I remembered what we the next day and wrote it down. However, half way through the meal, the wine kicked in and I cannot remember the second half as well as the first, I am afraid. I also took no pictures of the food, as I wasn’t confidence enough to get my camera out as there were so many members of staff around. For the tasting menu we had:

Pumpkin whip with duck scratchings (was like a light cold soup, very tasty but Stuart didn’t like it as much as I did)

Halibut cheeks, watercress purée, salsify chips, with gherkins and capers (excellent, was a play on normal fish and chips, one of our favourite dishes of the night)

Scallops & lobster served vanilla and lobster bisque (Not really to our taste – the vanilla seemed to overpower the scallop however the lobster and the bisque were good

Oxtail cannelloni with oxtail bouillon and cabbage (was the best dish of the night by far – so much effort had gone into this dish with the almost see through pasta, the slow cooked oxtail and the bouillon. Everything perfectly complemented each other and we both loved it)

Mallard with polenta, crispy bacon and mushrooms (the mallard was lovely and well cooked, the mushrooms were good too and the bacon was so crispy, it was an excellent compliment to the soft textured duck and mushrooms)

Parmesan cheese creamy thing (this is where my brain went and I started forgetting what we had. This had melted cheese on top, with a cheese mousse underneath. It had a strange texture but the cheese flavour really came through and I liked it. Stuart didn’t though)

Granita and Sabayon (this was a fruit granita with a sabayon on top. It was an excellent palette cleanser and set your up really well for the dessert)

Watermelon, mint bubble, cucumber, lemon sorbet and a cream bubble (This was the strangest dessert we have ever seen. Watermelon and cucumber with lemon sorbet and a couple of bubble type thing that popped and spread all over the plate as soon as you touched them. It was too watery and didn’t have enough flavour for us at all. We may have totally missed the point of this dish, so I do apologise Simon should you ever read this but it was the low point of the meal. I usually love puddings but we hated this one. )

I finished the evening with a 1994 port, which was fantastic as ended the evening as well as it had started with the champagne. Overall, we enjoyed our evening of Michelin star treatment and the glamour associated with it. We dined with Blackburn Rover’s footballer, Jason Roberts MBE who was sat with family/friends at the table opposite us. However, we did think that some of the food was style over substance and that Michelin starred restaurants are slightly over-hyped. This has not put us off though and we are already planning visits to Purnell’s in Birmingham and Northcote Manor, in Lancashire next year.

That’s it for today. Hope you have had a lovely weekend. Stay tuned for the next post on Tuesday where this blog is one year old and I will be celebrating it with my first giveaway.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Eating out in Edinburgh and Chester

What seems like ages ago now, in January I had a very busy week, where I went to Edinburgh for a few days with work and to Chester for the weekend with Stuart.  While I was at both places, I sampled some delicious food at a couple of local restaurants that I would like to share with you today. Apologies for the lack of photos in this post, Edinburgh was a work thing so I could not really take pictures and in Chester, I was just too hungry to take pictures before eating!!


On my only night out in Edinburgh (the rest of the time I was at a conference), I was very lucky to be taken to Howies Restaurant by my friend Viv, who lives in Edinburgh. We went to the Victoria Street branch and it was excellent. Good service, very knowledgeable waitresses and fantastic food. I started with Scottish haggis with confit turnip, potato crisps & a redcurrant reduction and for my main, I had Scottish borders ribeye steak with hand cut chips, roast tomato and a rich onion & thyme Lyonnaise jus. Both formed part of their offer of a 2 course dinner with a drink for £15 deal. The haggis was yummy and I could have eaten a massive pile of it, as it was that good. It was full of flavour and the redcurrant reduction complimented it perfectly. The steak was fabulous as well, perfectly cooked and the chips were amazing. I love proper homemade chips and the rich onion and thyme jus complimented it beautifully.  For Pudding, I had home made apple & rhubarb crumble with Mackie’s dairy ice cream, which was good but had slightly too much crumble topping in relation to the fruit for me. It was still yummy though. All three courses were washed down with an excellent glass or two of their house red wine.  Many thanks to Viv for taking me to Howies.  I intend to visit it again, when I am next in Edinburgh.

The second place I visited in Edinburgh was The Edinburgh Larder. This is a café/deli located on Blackfriars Street. I decided to go there for brunch on my last morning in Edinburgh before I got the train home as the breakfast at my hotel (a Travelodge) wasn’t up to much.  I had homemade beans on homemade toast, which was very yummy and very delicious. It was served with a big glass of fresh orange juice and a proper cup of coffee. I absolutely loved it and have decided I am always eating my breakfast/brunch their whenever I am in Edinburgh.  The deli counter was superb too with homemade cakes and cookies and an excellent range of cheeses of meats. I brought some venison chorizo that I intend to try soon in a stew of some kind. I brought a couple of biscuits as well, that I ate on train home. They were very yummy!


In Chester, we went to the Blackhouse Grill and we went to our first ever Michelin starred restaurant, Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor.  You will have to wait until the next post for me to tell you about the Simon Radley restaurant as I think it deserves a post of its very own.

The Blackhouse Grill is part of a chain that mostly has branches in Northern locations but it also has one in Smithfield in London. The one in Chester is on Newgate Street and it has such a large menu, I challenge you not to find something you don’t like. It has fish, salads, steaks, Mexican and Chinese specialities.  It even serves the ‘wagyu’ Kobe beef. To start, Stuart and I had a warm baked loaf with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. For our main, we shared a Chateaubriand steak with homemade chips, garlic French beans and béarnaise sauce. It was fantastic. The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare, the French beans were full of flavour and the béarnaise sauce was so good, we had double helpings. For pudding, Stuart had a lovely and sharp lemon sorbet and I had a 10 year old tawny port which was beautiful as I was too full for anything else.  The staff were very attentive and there was a great buzz about the place with a great atmosphere and live music. They also gave us 50% off our food bill with an offer that we did not know about, which made the whole evening even better.

That’s it for today, until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

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