Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Bun In The Oven!

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have been slightly irregular of late, and that I haven’t been on Twitter or Facebook as much recently. Well I have a very good reason for my tardiness. I am 12 weeks pregnant today with my first child. Over the last few weeks, I have been suffering with tiredness and morning sickness (its actually all day sickness but they don’t tell you that!) so blogging has not been my number 1 priority recently. I do hope you will all forgive me. I am nearing the end of the first trimester so I am hoping my regular blogging schedule will resume shortly, especially since I have lots of exciting things coming up soon.

To keep this blog to food only, I have decided to set up another blog for my pregnancy adventures. Its called Jo’s Nursery. Therefore, if you are interested in finding out more about what I am experiencing at the moment, then please pop over and say hello. However, if you are not interested, don’t worry, this blog will be staying the same. There may be some cross over but I will try to limit it. You can follow my new adventure on Twitter @Jos_Nursery and Facebook too. I hope to see some of you there.

I will be back soon with another foodie post. Thanks for understanding.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Restaurant Review: Jekyll and Hyde, Birmingham and Dr Oetker Giveaway Winner

A few weeks ago, Stuart and I were invited to go to The Jekyll and Hyde, a pub located in the Colmore Business District, near Snow Hill train station in Birmingham. Why is a food blogger reviewing a pub, I hear you ask? Well, The Jekyll and Hyde as I was found out when I went to do the review, makes exceptional good homemade food, cooked by their chef Tim.

We arrived at 7pm on a Wednesday evening and the place was buzzing with the after work crowd. The first thing that struck us, apart from the eccentric decoration was the vast variety of drinks that were on offer. You could have anything from a cocktail to a pint of Stowford Press Cider (my favourite!) to Dandelion and Burdock. Stuart and I stayed safe and stuck with the cider. We then sat down and looked at the menu.

It was a hard choice as everything on the menu sounded so  good. In the end I went for the Crispy Pork Belly, Calvados and Apple Jus, Caramelised Shallots, Braised Red Cabbage and dauphinoise potatoes. Stuart had the Toff Pie, with either rabbit, peasant or partridge in a port sauce. All meat is supplied to The Jekyll and Hyde from AP Doherty butchers in the Bullring Markets.

Overall, we were both very impressed with our meals. The pork belly was delicious and crispy and was complimented beautifully by the caramelised shallots  and creamy dauphinoise potatoes. Stuart’s pie was one of the best we have ever seen. It was packed full of game, with excellent gravy and topped with the best puff pastry ever. One small issue with Stuart’s was that the carrots were quite undercooked. I know it is trendy to undercook vegetables in restaurants now, however these were virtually raw. It was a small let down to an otherwise fantastic dish.  The portions were massive though and very reasonably priced. We were both so full after our mains, that we could not fit in pudding so I decided to have a Mojito to finish the evening with instead. Cheers! :-)

Overall, I recommend the Jekyll and Hyde as the perfect place to have a drink while waiting for train or if you have time, you really must stay and sample the food. You will not regret it. :-)

Note to Readers: Stuart and I dined as guests of the Jekyll and Hyde. Many thanks to Vicky for organising it. It is much appreciated :-)

Dr Oetker Cake Goodies Giveaway Winner

In my last post, I hosted a giveaway of Dr Oetker cake baking goodies.  To win, all you had to was leave a comment on the post. I had an amazing 40 entries.  Thanks to everyone who took part. I am pleased to announce the winner is Comment no 7 : Michelle. Well done to Michelle for winning. I shall be in touch to get your address and the goodies will be in the post to you asap. Thanks again to everyone for taking part. Hope you all have a lovely sunny Easter.

Happy Cooking! :-)


Cookbook Review: Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass and a Dr Oetker Giveaway

As most of you know by now, I love baking and decorating cakes and I am always on the look out to learn new techniques and get inspiration from everywhere. Therefore, I was very happy when I asked if I would like to review Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass: The Ultimate Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection.

 Mitch Turner is the owner of The Little Venice Cake Company which she set up in 1999 after leaving Harvey Nichols where she worked as a Patisserie Buyer. She has made cakes for Gordon Ramsay, Pierce Brosnan, Cheryl Cole, David Beckham and Her Majesty The Queen. Cake Masterclass is her fourth book, following on from her three previous international best-sellers including Spectacular Cakes and Fantastic Party Cakes.

My first impression of the book was how pretty and detailed the cover was. Its beautiful. The book is divided into six sections, Essential Equipment, Cake Baking, Fillings and Frostings, Careful Covering and Stacking, Masterclass and a Cake Gallery. The most useful sections for the amateur cake baker are the equipment section, covering and stacking and the masterclass section, where Mitch reveals some of her decorating secrets such as how to do run outs, make flowers and hand piping. The cake gallery is useful for inspiration, however I think most of the ideas are slightly beyond the average amateur cake decorator despite Mitch’s detailed instructions.

To test out the recipes in the book, I decided to make Cinnamon and White Chocolate Cupcakes. I am not usually one for making flavoured cupcakes, I prefer simple vanilla however these sounded quite good so I gave them a go.  The making of the cupcakes was easy. The recipe was spot on. However, I had some concerns with the white chocolate buttercream. Normally I use 250g of unsalted butter to 50og of icing sugar to ice 12 cupcakes. This recipe called for 175g of unsalted butter to 300g icing sugar, with 100g of white chocolate melted to ice 24 cupcakes.  As it was quite late on a work night when I was making these, I decided to palette knife the icing onto the cakes, as piping was a bit beyond me at this point. It turned out that there was enough icing in the end, however I think if I had used my normal Wilton 1M nozzle, there would not have been enough icing for the cakes.  I took the cakes to work and everyone loved them. The cinnamon was not overpowering and the white chocolate icing complimented it fantastically.  I decorated the cupcakes with decorations I have recently received from Dr Oetker: Wafer Daisies and Polka Dots.

Overall, I was very impressed with Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass. I think it is useful addition to any cake bakers bookshelf as it has the perfect mix of techniques and inspiration.

Many Thanks to Melissa from Jacqui Small for sending me the book to review. It is much appreciated.

Dr Oetker Giveaway!

Dr Oetker have given  me lots of goodies that I can giveaway to one lucky Jo’s Kitchen reader. You can win a Bunny Cookie Kit, a Cupcake Kit, an Egg Decorating Kit, Chocolate Writing icing, Chocolate Chips and Fun Baking Cases. Everything you need to get busy in the kitchen with the kids this Easter holiday. To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by 8pm on Tuesday 19th April. The winner will then be chosen using Random.org and the items will then be posted out to you, hopefully in time for Easter weekend. The giveaway is open to UK residents only as although Dr Oetker supplied the goodies, I am paying the postage to get the items to you. Any questions, please contact me at joskitchen@hotmaiil.co.uk.

Until next time,

Happy Cooking (or Baking!) :-)


Appliance Review: Morphy Richards Flavour Savour Slow Cooker

Since January, I have been reviewing a Morphy Richard’s Flavour Slavour 4.5L Slow Cooker. I have been using it on a regular basis and have cooked a variety of things in it, including my chicken curry, chilli con carne and a couple of beef stews. (A recipe for one of them is below.)

Overall I have been very impressed with the Flavour Slavour. It is not like a traditional crockpot slow cooker. It is a metal pan that sits on base that works like a hot plate. You can fry meat and vegetables in it  before adding any the stock etc meaning that you do need to use another pan.  It has a fast stew function that takes 1 hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes, perfect if you forget to turn the slow cooker on before you go to work in the morning. It has the usual slow cook functions that you can adjust the time on, 4 hours, 6 hours and 8 hours. I usually used the 6 and 8 hours functions depending on when I put the slow cooker on. One small negative with the Flavour Slavour is that stuff sticks to it very easily during the Fast Stew function unless you stir the contents regularly. It can be a bit of pain however, I found the Flavour Slavour to be very easy to clean either by hand washing or in the dishwasher.

As well as sending me the slow cooker to review, Morphy Richards set me a challenge. The challenge is the £4 Slow Cooker Challenge which is to feed a family of 4 for £4. You are allowed some free ingredients that do not come out of the £4 budget such as salt, pepper, stock and herbs however the main components of meal must not cost more than £4. To fulfil this challenge, I present to you my Braising Steak Stew.

Braising Steak Stew

(All ingredients brought from Morrisons)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 300g Braising Steak (£1.36), chopped into chunks and large pieces of fat removed
  • 2 onions (30p), peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 4-5 carrots (30p), peeled and chopped into 1/2 com rounds
  • 6 large potatoes, (£1.25), peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 pint of beef stock*
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs*
  • Salt and Pepper*
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Sauce*

* = Store cupboard ingredients

Total cost of ingredients: £3.21

Method

  1. Put the braising steak, vegetables except the potatoes, stock, dried herbs, Worcestershire sauce, Soy sauce, Tomato sauceand salt and pepper to taste into the slow cooker.
  2. Stir everything together and then set the timer for 6-8 hours cooking time, depending on how long you have.
  3. Carry on with your day….
  4. When there is 1 1/2 -2 hours left of cooking time, add in the potatoes and continue cooking until the time has elapsed.
  5. Serve in a big bowl with home-made bread and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

If you are interested in purchasing a Flavour Slavour, then you can here.

Many thanks to Chris from Morphy Richards for sending me the slow cooker to review.  It is much appreciated :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)


 

 

Meeting Gino D’Acampo

Last Saturday, Italian flair came to Birmingham in the form of a visit from     Gino D’Acampo who was in the Bullring promoting his latest cookbook ‘Gino’s Pasta: Everything You Need to Cook the Italian Way‘. While he was there, Gino did cookery demonstrations and signed copies of his latest cookbook. I was lucky enough to meet him backstage and get a signed cookbook.  Thanks to the Bullring PR team for arranging this. It is much appreciated. :-)

When I got home, I felt inspired to cook a quick and simple dish from his cookbook. As I was home alone at the time, I decided to cook a dish that Gino cooks when he is only cooking for one: Penne al’Arrabiata. My adapted recipe of the dish is below. I reduced the quantities as the recipe in the book serves 4.

Penne al’Arrabiata

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 1 chilli,  finely diced and de-seeded if preferred
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 100g Penne pasta, cooked to the packet instructions
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • Handful of grated Parmesan cheese, for putting on top of the finished dish (optional)

Method

  1. Put olive oil in a frying pan, and allow to heat up. Put in the garlic and chilli and allow to fry for a minute or two until softened.
  2. Add in the tin of chopped tomatoes in and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add in the parsley at the last minute and turn off the heat. Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve in a big bowl with grated Parmesan on top. Enjoy with a glass of wine!

I will be back with another post over the weekend. I hope you all enjoy the lovely weather we are having.

Happy Cooking! :-)

PS: Sorry for lack of posts this week. I have been busy with work and not been feeling 100%. Normal service will be resumed ASAP. Thanks for your patience.

PPS: I am featured in the University of Worcester’s Staff Magazine this month. You can see the magazine here.

Pilgrims Choice: Heathier Cows, More Milk = Better Cheese!

As a massive fan of cheese of all kinds, I was very happy to find out that Pilgrims Choice have found a way to keep their cows fitter and healthier leading to them producing more milk and better cheese.

They have done this by installing  a fleet of custom-built bovine treadmills down at its West Country Vintage Farmhouse producer, Parkham Farms, to give the 1,000 strong herd of cows a daily dose of exercise. This has reduced boredom and has sti-moo-lating their milk production.

The treadmills, which weigh in at almost half a tonne, allow each animal to regulate its own speed, from a brisk walk to a more demanding trot.  After a month of daily activity on the treadmills, the cows are collectively producing almost twice the amount of milk than they were before their exercise regime started. A spokesman for Pilgrims Choice said;

“We installed the first treadmill during the freezing weather conditions at the end of last year to ensure our herd received some real exercise. As humans, we all know that a regular fitness regime keeps us healthy, and we wanted to see if this philosophy could be applied to cows, too. This is part of our on-going programme of welfare development.

“We soon found that those cows which had used the treadmill were producing greater milk yields than those who hadn’t. We installed a second treadmill in January and the positive results continued. Now we have 10 custom-built treadmills and the cows use them in rotation.

“Each cow spends an hour on the treadmill. At the head of each treadmill there is a trough for hay and water so the cows can graze at the same time – if they have the energy!.

“Not only have we found that fitter cows produce more milk, but also that the milk is frothier and creamier. As a result, we expect to significantly increase our cheese production in the coming year”.

They intend to do this by expanding its fitness facilities with the installation of a further six treadmills and, potentially, a shallow 25 metre swimming pool. This is fantastic news for all the cheese lovers out there. Well done Pilgrims Choice! :-)

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