Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cookbook Review: On A Stick By Matt Armendariz

Do you like cupcakes? Yes, then don’t forget to enter my competition to win a cupcakes class with Cupcakes By Chrissie. All info here :-)

I love finding unusual cookbooks so when I was asked to review ‘On A Stick’ by Matt Armendariz, I jumped at the chance. Matt is a fellow blogger with a blog called ‘Matt Bites’, which was featured in The Times 50 Best Food Blogs.  He is a food photographer/stylist and has even appeared with Martha Stewart on her daytime show in America.

On A Stick contains 80 easy and elegant recipes that are suitable for parties. The catch is that everything is served on a stick or a skewer. The book includes party favourites such as scotch eggs and caramel apples, along with more unusual things to find on a stick including spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate covered cheesecake. The book is very American orientated but once you get past this, there lots of simple and easy recipes that you can make at home.

As ever, whenever I receive a cookbook to review, I like to cook a recipe from it. This time I decided to make Cake Pops. The recipe in the book originally calls for a Devil’s Food Cake and cream cheese frosting, but I decided to make my life easier and used shop brought Madeira cake. I do not like cream cheese frosting so I used buttercream instead. To make the cake pops, you break the cake into a bowl, add in the buttercream, mix well and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes to set. You then roll them into small balls, put a lollipop stick (or a cocktail stick, in my case) and dip them in chocolate. I did not leave my cake pops to set for long enough so some of them fell apart before they even went into the chocolate. Once they were dipped and left to set in the fridge, they were fine. I took them to work and some people loved them, others did not. They thought they were too sweet and overpowering. I think the recipe essentially works but there is a fine line between getting the right amount of buttercream to make the cake stick together and not getting too much and making them too sweet.

Overall, I am very impressed with On A Stick. I cannot wait to have a BBQ or party during the summer to try some more of recipes out :-)

Many thanks to Matt from Quirk Books for sending me the book to review. It is much appreciated :-)

Product Review: Douwe Egberts Decaff Coffee

Do you like cupcakes? Yes, then don’t forget to enter my competition to win a cupcakes class with Cupcakes By Chrissie. All info here :-)

I love coffee. I cannot start the day without it. I am like a bear with a sore head if I do not get chance to have a mug of it before I leave the house in the morning. However, since we started trying for a baby and since I have got pregnant, I have had to reduce my caffeine intake. The suggested limit is 200mg of caffeine a day (about two cups) but I have been trying to have less than that. I had never considered Decaff coffee until we started trying for a baby. I never understood what was the point of coffee, if you could not have caffeine in it.

Well, how wrong I was. Decaff coffee is good, perfect if you want the coffee taste without the buzz of caffeine. I was recently sent some Douwe Egberts Decaff to review and I am very impressed. It is designed for use in all coffee makers. I have a cafetiere at home and at work so I have been drinking it quite a lot. It tastes exactly like normal coffee. Very rich and smooth. I love it! I may even start drinking decaff coffee more even when I am not pregnant. Thank you to Douwe Egberts for making me healthier and reducing my caffeine intake! :-)

Cupcakes by Chrissie Review and a Competition!

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to review and take part in a Children’s cupcake decoration class run by Chrissie of Cupcakes by Chrissie in her Birmingham home. Chrissie started baking cakes for her son and his friends in 2005 and the business grew from there. After a trip to New York, where she was introduced to the American cupcake, Chrissie decided to use her home economist background to teach students how to make pretty, sophisticated and elegant cupcakes for all occasions.

I arrived at 9.30am to be greeted warmly by Chrissie and taken into her lovely home. All the classes are run from her beautiful kitchen and I was soon joined by five other ladies, all of whom had taken classes with Chrissie before. Our first task, after we had drunk our cup of coffee, was to learn how to make the perfect ball out of sugar paste. This would be the base for all our models as the day went on and it was a technique we all needed to master. It took me a little while but I got there in the end! We started making a racing car as our first model, where we took our balls of sugar paste and make them into flat sausage shapes to form the basis of the car. We used the end of a piping nozzle to make the wheels and another ball of sugar paste, with a flattened bottom to make the helmet.

After finishing the racing car, we moved onto a cow, a pig and a rabbit. All of which we made in a similar way. You started off with a ball of sugar paste for the body and another for the head. The heads were all shaped slightly differently depending on the animal involved. We made ears using leaf cutters or freehand with a craft knife. The arms and the legs were all sort of flat sausage shapes with pads made for their paws and feet. Everything was stuck together using edible glue and detailing was done either by using a small paintbrush or tiny bits of black sugar paste.

We spent approximately 30 minutes on each model. To give us a break, we used a mould to make a tatty teddy, which is made by pushing grey sugar paste into the mould and leaving it to set in the freezer for a couple of minutes. We then used  silver lustre dust and black sugar paste to bring out the detail. To finish, we could either make a brown teddy in the same method as the other animals or we could make a caterpillar. I decided to make the caterpillar as it was just different sized balls of sugar paste. To finish, we used a grass piping nozzle to pipe grass on 3 or 4 of our cupcakes and used buttercream/ sugar paste circles to top the rest.

We left after 5 hours of cake decorating fun, leaving Chrissie with a messy kitchen, clutching our goodie bags containing cupcake cases and full instructions to make cupcakes ourselves at home. We all had a fantastic time and I cannot wait to make cupcakes like these again soon. Thank you to Chrissie for her excellent tuition and patience.  It was great fun! :-)

Many thanks to Beth from Jam and Cream PR for arranging it for me to attend the class :-)

About the classes:

Cupcake classes cost £50 per person and include all equipment and 12 cupcakes to take away.

Classes are held in Castle Vale, Birmingham 9:45am – 1:30pm.

For a full list of upcoming classes please see here for details.

You can find Cupcakes by Chrissie on:

Twitter:  @CakesbyChrissie

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cupcakes-by-Chrissie/252159928841

Contact Details:

By email: info@cupcakesbychrissie.com

By phone: 07701025647

Its Competition Time!

If you would like a chance to win a cupcake class of your choice from Chrissie, all you need to do is answer the question correctly below:

What is the number of the Wilton piping nozzle used to make the grass on my cupcakes?

A) 244

B) 211

C) 233

Please email your answer to joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk by 12 noon BST on Monday 1st August 2011 and leave a comment in the comments form below (with a Twitter username, if you have one) telling me you done so. All the correct answers will go into a draw and the winner will be selected using Random.org. The winner will be informed via email and/or Twitter as soon as possible after the competition has closed.

This competition has now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered

Terms and Conditions

  1. The winner will select a class of their choice to attend from the list here.
  2. Competition is open to UK Residents only.
  3. The winner must be able to make their own way to Birmingham (just off J6, M6 near Star City and Fort Shopping Centre) for the class.
  4. The same competition is also running on the Midlands Food Bloggers blog but there will be only be 1 winner picked from all entries from both blogs. 
  5. The judges decision is final.
  6. Any questions, please email joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk

A Night at Odettes

Stuart and I are fans of the Great British Menu, the BBC TV programme. We have watched it since the start and we were particularly taken by a young chef, Bryn Williams who appeared in series 1 and got to cook the fish course for the Queen’s 80th Birthday banquet. Therefore, on our second night in London, it was a fairly easy decision as to whose restaurant we wanted to eat at.

Odette’s is located in Primrose Hill and Bryn has worked there since 2006, becoming the chef patron in 2008. We arrived at 7.45pm on a wet and windy Sunday night to find a quiet yet buzzing restaurant, barely noticeable on the High Street unless you knew it was there.  We were seated promptly and left to make up our minds from the fabulous looking menu. Having already looked on-line, we had a fair idea as to what we wanted and when Stuart mentioned that he would like the Roasted turbot, braised oxtail, cockles & samphire for his main (the dish that Bryn cooked for the Queen), we were informed that there was only one left and needed to reserve it, if Stuart wanted it. We did as we were told and reserved it for later.

As an Amuse Bouche, we were served a Cream of Mushroom and Wild Garlic Velouté which was delicious, light, full of flavour but not overpowering. For my starter, I had Roasted wood pigeon, foie gras, pickled cherries, chocolate, vanilla salt (minus the foie gras- pregnant people can’t eat it!) and Stuart had Crab lasagna, salt & pepper squid, shellfish sauce. My starter was amazing. All the flavours worked really well together and the roasted pigeon leg, which was wrapped in filo pastry was like a spring roll. It was delicious. Stuart’s starter was great too as the crab and the squid really worked well together and did not overpower each other.

Stuart’s roast turbot and oxtail was fantastic. I can see why it was served to the Queen. It is a combination that really should not work but it does. The rich oxtail compliments the turbot and brings out it flavours. I only got to try one spoonful of it. Wish I could of tried more. My main of Loin of Elwy Valley lamb, potato fondant, baby gem, peas & mint was perfect too. It comes from Bryn’s family farm in Wales and is melt in the mouth tender. I  wish I could cook lamb half as good as this at home. It was yummy! If I had not of been in public, I would of licked the plate clean.

As a pre dessert we were served panacotta with berries.  The panacotta was rich and creamy, but not so rich that you could not finish it. For dessert I had Lemon curd arctic roll, cranachan & raspberries. I have loved arctic roll since I was a child and was interested to see Bryn’s take on it. The lemon curd in the arctic roll gave it an extra dimension and moved it beyond the ordinary. He can start selling it in supermarkets at any time. I will happily buy it. The crunch of the cranachan and raspberries brought more textures to the plate and cut through the richness of the arctic roll. I will eat it again at anytime.

Overall, we had a fantastic evening at Odette’s. We would like to thank Bryn and his team for a fabulous meal. We will be as soon as we can. In the picture above, I am wearing a Diamond Dress from Lush Mummy who make glamorous maternity wear and I have been lucky enough to be sent some. I will be doing a full post about them and their clothes on Jo’s Nursery soon.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Restaurant Review: Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant

A few weeks ago, Stuart and I had a lovely weekend in London. We went and saw Harrod’s and Borough Market. One evening we were there, we went to the Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant, located in the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel. We arrived at 7.45pm on a busy Saturday evening to be greeted by two members of staff, who told us that they were fully booked, barely looking up from their computer screen as they did so. We informed them that we had a reservation, which they then could not find. Eventually, the manager turned up, found our reservation and we were seated by the restaurant entrance. This was not a good start and it did not really improve greatly from there.

To nibble on, while we looked at the modern European menu, we were brought bread and butter, with some olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar to dip. The bread was fantastic.Very warm and very fresh, however the olive oil was very bland and tasteless. It did nothing for the bread at all. To start, I had Cream of Wild Mushroom and Rosemary Soup and Stuart had Marinated fillet of beef with horseradish rosti, mushroom cream. Stuart loved his starter; the beef was beautiful and complemented well by horseradish rosti. Mine was a bit disappointing as it was under-seasoned and  I could not taste any rosemary in it all.

For my main, I had Potato gnocchi with butternut squash and baby spinach and Stuart had Char-grilled rib eye steak from Dillon’s Farm in County Londonderry, pink pepper corn sauce and chips. Stuart’s main was fantastic. The steak was cooked perfectly, the chips were amazing and the peppercorn sauce was lovely. Mine, on the other hand was bland and unseasoned (again!). The sauce was good but it needed more flavour. Something to bring it up a level or two. We shared a green salad as well, which was needed as a contrast to both our mains.

For pudding,  I had Crème brûlée with lemon sorbet and Stuart had lemon sorbet on its own as he is not really a dessert person and did not really like anything else on the menu. My crème brûlée was lovely, very creamy and delicious however the sorbet it came with was not lemon. It had a very strange flavour to it and I could not place what it was. (I think Stuart had all the lemon sorbet!) My sorbet was placed in a wafer basket that would not have looked out of place on an ice cream van. It was not what I expected of a 5* star London hotel. We left the by now empty restaurant at 10pm and went to back to our own hotel.

Overall, I think that the Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant provided acceptable food that would be fine if you were staying in the hotel for one or two nights to eat. However, I do not think that the food is worth a special journey for and it is not what I consider to be 5* London restaurant standard.

You can find out more about London Hotels here.

Note to readers: Stuart and I dined as guests of the Raddison Edwardian Hotels. We received a free three course meal for two with a bottle of house wine. We stayed at the Raddison Edwardian Grafton for two nights with breakfast at a discounted rate. Many thanks to Jimisha for arranging this for us.

PS: Sorry for the haphazardness of my posts of late. You can find out why I have been a bit irregular posting on Jo’s Nursery, here.

A Postcard from Borough Market

On a recent trip to London, I visited Borough Market for the first time. It is complete foodie heaven and I cannot wait to visit it again soon. As it was a busy Saturday afternoon, I did not get chance to really chat to the stallholders so I took photos of the things that interested me while we were walking around. I hope you like them. I will be back with another post soon

Happy Cooking! :-)

A Postcard from Harrods: The Food Hall

Stuart and I recently had a weekend in London. There will be more to follow from this trip soon but for now, please enjoy some pictures that I took in the fabulous Harrod’s Food Hall. (I would live there if I could!) :-)

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