Category Archives: Review

A Day at Seasoned Cookery School with Sara Danesin

Sara Danesin and I
A few weeks ago, I was invited to Seasoned Cookery School, at Catton Hall in Derbyshire for an Italian Masterclass with Sara Danesin (a finalist in Masterchef 2011). We were warmed greeted by the Seasoned staff, and Sara herself with hot drinks and a freshly baked chocolate and peanut creation. It was delicious!
Sara Danesin
The Masterclass started with Sara showing us how to make her mango panacotta as it needed time to set. We were then sent off in twos to make our own. Sara’s instructions were simple and easy to follow and the Seasoned cookery team were on hand too if you got stuck doing anything. Next we learnt how to make a seafood stock and how to prepare the seafood going into our risotto.  We had to prepare the seafood on our own. This was a new experience for me as although I like some fish and shellfish, preparing it as always put me off. The cleaning of the squid was actually quite enjoyable and I got the hang of it after the first one. I did chicken out of preparing the prawns though. I do not know exactly why but I dislike them greatly.
Seafood risotto
For our next lesson, Sara taught us how to make the perfect risotto using Carnaroli rice. Carnaroli rice keeps it’s shape better than Arborio rice which I have mainly used before. You do not need to keep stirring it as many chefs will tell you too. Just a stir every couple of minutes is fine. The homemade fish stock was very flavourful and really brought the risotto alive.
Lunch at Seasoned
Once we had finished making our risotto, it was time to eat it for our lunch. Lunch was very civilised and we were offered a glass of wine to accompany our meal. It was lovely to chat to Sara and the other members of the group over a glass of wine. Before long, it was time to get back to it and start making our own pasta.
Sara making pasta using a machine
Next Sara showed us how to make homemade pasta. I have made pasta a few times before but have never rolled it using a machine so this was a new experience for me. We made our pasta then let it rest while we watched Sara demonstrate aubergine alla parmigiana with pesto. I am not a great fan of aubergine but if Sara will make it for me every time, then I am a fan! I have always thought of aubergines has been rubbery and bland tasting. Sara’s were crisp and delicious with her homemade tomato sauce and cheese sauce. It was amazing!
Aubergine alla parmigiana
Next, Sara demonstrated her wild mushroom, pancetta and thyme cream sauce to accompany the tagliatelle . With a bit of assistance from Sara, I was able to get to grips with the pasta machine and was soon onto making my sauce. Once we had finished our dish, we ate our homemade pasta with wild mushroom, pancetta and thyme cream sauce with the rest of the group and another glass of wine! (Pasta and risotto in one day – I was stuffed!) Sara told us about her Masterchef experience and her week in Masterchef pop up restaurant in London which she had just finished her stint in, the night before heading up to Derbyshire to teach the course on the morning.
tagliatelle with wild mushroom, pancetta and thyme sauce
For the last activity of the day, Sara showed us how to make a black olive caramel and passion fruit glaze to accompany the panacotta. It may sound strange but the black olive caramel really worked and helped cut through the richness of the panacotta. I do not like black olives either! It was a really simple and impressive dessert that I will be making for a dinner party soon.
Mango passion fruit with black olive caramel
I had a wonderful day at Seasoned and am already planning which course I am going to go on next. Sara was lovely and I really enjoyed talking to her. She made real Italian food a possibility as opposed to an inspiration that I had before. All the staff were very friendly and could not do enough for you. I highly recommend a course at Seasoned. I hope I will see you at a course there soon!
Disclosure: I attended as a guest of Seasoned Cookery School. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review

 

 

Spooky Carrot Soup and Soup Maker Review

This post is slightly belated but this recipe will be great if you are having a bonfire night party this coming weekend or you can make it at anytime of year without the spooky bit! Pumpkins are the main source of everyone’s enthusiasm at this time of year and although they look great as lanterns, they are quite fiddly to prepare and there are only so many ’50 ways to use up leftover pumpkin’ posts that I can read.

Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the humble carrot. In the UK, We produce 700,000 tons of carrots per year (source here) and I wonder how many of those get thrown in the bin? I used to buy a bag of carrots from the supermarket then use 3/4 out of the bag and throw the rest away. I am sure I am not the only one who has done this. Anyway, I have the solution to this problem, my simple carrot soup recipe. The recipe is below and my simple carrot soup recipe has been made even easier by being sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker 

VonShef Soup Maker

VonShef Soup Maker

Until I had one, I always thought that soup makers were a gadget too far. I mean how hard is it to make soup really? However, in the two weeks that I have had the soup maker, my views have been transformed. A soup maker is basically a blender that cooks. You add in all the ingredients, add the stock, turn on and 40 minutes later you have hot puréed soup ready to go. I have been using it to make soup for me to take to work and heat up in my Crockpot Food Warmer.  It is a great way of using leftover vegetables and saves money too.

The only downside I have found to soup maker is that when I fried onions and garlic in it before adding the other vegetables and stock (which it says it can do in the instructions), it fried them very fast and burnt them, leaving a nasty taste in the soup and tiny black specks in the soup. However I discovered the soup maker has enough power to cook everything, just by putting all the ingredients and the stock in and leaving it to cook. The soup maker blends as it cooks so you do not even have to touch it when it is has finished unless you want to purée it more.  The soup maker can cook eggs and rice too (although I have not tried these functions yet).

Tell me, what gadget did you think you could live without in the kitchen but then once you had it, you discovered it was the most useful appliance ever? I would love to know!

Spooky Carrot Soup

Ingredients (make 2 large or 3/4 smaller portions)

For the soup

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 8-12 carrots (depending on size), peeled and finely chopped
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the spooky bit

  • 2 Babybel cheeses per soup bowl, packaging and red outer bit removed
  • 1 black edible ink pen

Method

  1. (In a soup maker) Add all the soup ingredients into the soup maker. Turn on to low heat mode and allow to cook for allotted time. Serve with the eyes, as described below
  2. (Without a soup maker) In 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, fry the onions and celery until softened then add carrots, vegetable stock and cook until the carrots are cooked through and soft. Season to taste then using a hand blender, blend until it reaches desired consistency.
  3. (For the spooky eyes) Draw a black eye in the middle of each Babybel cheese. The pen might stab into the cheese a bit so the do the best you can. Float cheeses on top of soup, eat and enjoy! Boo!!

Disclosure: I was sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker  for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review

Tasty Tuesdays

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Discovering A Different Side To Chardonnay With Hardy’s

A little while ago, Hardys challenged me to lead a blind taste test with six different bottles of Chardonnay and discover really what it is all about. I am more of a Pinot Grigio drinker myself normally as I have always thought of Chardonnay has being a bit boring. However, Chardonnay is having a renaissance in the UK and is the number one selling white wine in the world. In 1990, the number of litres that were exported to the UK from Austrailia was 7.7m btts and this has now grown to 340.9m btts in 2012.

As I cannot taste test six bottles of Chardonnay by myself, (although I would give it a good go!) I invited my mom and stepdad along for dinner and the wine tasting. Stuart was given the job as chief wine pourer once I covered up the labels with tin foil so no one except for myself, knew which wine was which. I deliberately kept the food simple to allow the wine to be the star and because of having two young children, I do not really have the time for elaborate dinner parties anymore. We had rosemary and garlic focaccia to start, followed by roast chicken, new potatoes and salad and to finish, a mixed berry crumble and custard. I actually forgot to take pictures of the food (too much wine LOL!) so you will just have to cope with pictures of wine bottles instead.

The six bottles of Chardonnay are listed below in the order that we tasted them. I have included the our tasting comments for each bottle too.

Stamp Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir NV

They say: ‘house style of sparkling wine, showing complexity, flavour, softness and elegance.’

We say: ‘dry and crisp flavour’ ‘delicious – can I have some more please’

VR Chadonnay 2013

They say: ‘The Varietal Range (VR) is made up of uncomplicated, everyday wines that display true varietal character’

We say: ‘not too dry’ ‘most innocuous’ ‘rich and peachy’

Stamp Chardonnay/Semillon 2012

They say: ‘The Stamp range showcases the winemaker’s passion and skill for blending grape varieties from diverse regions’

We say: ‘very clear’ ‘not very exciting’ ‘a bit boring’ ‘floral’

Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2013

They say: ‘The range is known for its consistency, approachable style and balance’

We say: ‘excellent’ ‘very dry’ ‘my favourite so far’

William Hardy Chardonnay 2013

They say: ‘This range highlights Bill’s passion for blending wines. Bill is the chief winemaker and figurehead of Hardy’s today’

We say: ‘less dry and quite clear in colour’ ‘bland’ ‘not as good as previous one’

HRB Chardonnay 2010

They say: ‘It displays the typically vibrant characters of Pemberton combined with the with the wonderfully zesty, citrus flavours from the Yarra Valley to produce a fully flavoured yet restrained and elegent cool climate Chardonnay.’

We say: ‘very strong smell and taste’ ‘very overpowering’ ‘don’t like this at all’

 

Overall, we were all very surprised at how different one bottle was from the next. Who knew that bottles of Chardonnay could taste so diffrerent? Bar from the first sparkling bottle, the bottles were drank in price order from low to high with the lowest price bottle starting at £6.49 with the most expensive one at £16. I had already guessed from the label that the last one was the most expensive one and I thought I would love it. However, it was our least favourite and the most overpowering in flavour. It just goes to show that price is not everything! I will definitely look at Chardonnay now and will not always go to my default choice of Pinot Grigio every time I want to order or buy white wine.

Why don’t you try a few different bottles of Chardonnay and see if you look at it differently too?

If you would like to cook with white wine (and not just drink it!) then check out these amazing recipes:

French onion soup with comte cheese toasts

Pasta in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce

Lemon and Basil Chicken

Pan fried John Dory with creamy mushroom and white wine sauce

Spaghetti Vongole

Disclosure: I received 7 bottles of Hardy’s Chardonnay for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own or my fellow tasters.

 

 

A Brazilian Feast With Magimix

Moqueca & pão de queijo

Unless you have been living on Mars, you cannot have failed to notice that there is a lot of football on the TV at the moment. The world cup has been hosted in Brazil this year and as a result of that, I was recently challenged by Magimix to make a 4 course Brazilian feast using a Magimix CS 4200 XL Food Processor. This is a perfect meal that you could make all or part of to feed your mates as you watch the world cup final this weekend. My recipes below are not truly authentic but they do bring the taste of Brazil to your kitchen.

Magimix CS 4200 XL Food Processor

Magimix CS 4200 XL Food Processor

I have lusted after a Magimix food processor for ages so when I offered one for this task, I was on cloud 9! I have been using it for around three weeks now and am already completely in love with it. I have used as many functions as I can in the following recipes but I have hardly scratched the surface. I cannot wait to cook with it more soon. The food processor comes with a box of tricks which includes:

  • Extra large feed tube
  • 3 bowls
  • knife blade and a mini one for the smallest bowl
  • Blender mix
  • dough blade
  • egg whisk
  • 2 sizes of slicing discs
  • 2 sizes of grating discs

The food processor feels really solid and as long as I treat it with care, I am sure I will have it for a very long time. I am already eyeing up buying the creative kit and the dough bowl kit for it to extend the many kitchen jobs it can already do! Anyway, on with the recipes!

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Tapioca flour is quite chewy. The end result may not be to everyone’s taste. My husband loved it but I was not so sure. These are gluten free though which may make someone’s night!

Ingredients (makes 12 small buns)

  • 170g tapioca flour
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 50ml olive oil and extra for greasing tin
  • 70g hard cheese, e.g. cheddar
  • 1tsp English Mustard Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C and grease a cupcake/muffin tin with a bit of oil
  2. Grate the cheese in the 4mm grater and set aside
  3. Put all the ingredients in the main Magimix bowl and then blend using knife blade until combined
  4. Pour into cupcake/muffin tin and fill 3/4 way full
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until crisp on the outside but soft and chewy in the middle
  6. Serve warm with Moqueca (recipe below) or on their own as a pre-match snack!

Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)

This recipe is not traditional as it does not contain coconut milk. However this recipe has a real fresh feel and the lime juice added in at the end, gives it a zesty kick!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 large pepper, colour of your choice with seeds and white bits removed
  • 1 jalapeño chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml fish stock
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 500g cod loin, skinned and cut into 2-3 inch chunks
  • 300g prawns, peeled and de-veined
  • large bunch of coriander eaves and very tops of stalks, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Using the small slicing disc, chop up the onion and the pepper in the Magimix medium sized bowl and set aside for a minute
  2. In a large pan, add the oil and allow to heat up. Add the onion and the pepper, and fry until softened.
  3. Once softened, add the garlic and the chilli and fry for a minute more.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, fish stock and paprika.
  5. If you would like a smoother finish to your stew, you could use the blendermix on your Magimix now before you add in the seafood.
  6. Once blended (if desired), bring back up to heat and then add the cod loin into the stew. Put the lid on and allow to simmer gently for a few minutes.
  7. After a few minutes, add in the prawns and allow to cook through for another couple of minutes.
  8. Once cooked, turn off the heat and add in the lime juice, coriander, salt and pepper then stir gently so you do not break up the fish too much. Serve in big bowls, eat and of course enjoy!

Churrasco Steak with Salsa and Coriander Rice

Churrasco Steak with Salsa & Rice

Churrasco Steak with Salsa & Rice

In Brazil, Churrasco (BBQ) is very popular. Usually after being cooked on the BBQ, meat is dipped in a salt brine. This recipe gives this feeling but with a less salty taste as the meat is marinated before cooking.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

For the steak

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 lime
  • 2 steaks (I used sirloin)
  • salt and pepper

For the Salsa

  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 1 large tomato or 3/4 smaller ones
  • 1 pepper, colour of your choice
  • small bunch of coriander
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the rice,

  • 150g long grain rice, cooked according to packet instructions
  • small bunch of coriander, chopped

Method

  1. In the small bowl of the Magimix, blend the garlic cloves and the salt together until they form a fine paste. Add the olive oil and lime juice and blend them again briefly until combined. Pour over the steak and set aside at room temperature to marinate for an hour.
  2. Using the large grater attachment of the Magimix, chop up the onion, pepper and tomato(es) and then put in another bowl and add the lime juice, olive oil , salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.
  3. Remove any excess marinate from the steak and cook on a preheated BBQ, griddle or frying pan for 3/5 minutes a side (depending on size of steak) for medium, remove and set aside to rest.
  4. Cook the rice according to the package instructions, then using a fork stir through with chopped coriander. Serve with the steak, salsa and a large glass of red wine!

Brazilian Inspired Strawberry & Lime Cheesecake Pots

Strawberry & Lime Cheesecake Pots

Strawberry & Lime Cheesecake Pots

This recipe is Brazilian inspired. It uses condensed milk which is a traditional Brazilian ingredient in desserts teamed with cream cheese to make the filling. The lime zest cuts through the richness of the condensed milk and turns it into a refreshing summer dessert. This recipe contains raw egg white so it is not suitable for pregnant women

Ingredients (Makes 4 little ramekins)

  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 lime
  • 4 strawberries, hulled to decorate the top

Digestive Biscuits in the small bowl of Magimix

Method

  1. In the small bowl of the Magimix, break up the biscuits until they are a fine crumb. Add in the butter and mix again until combined. Put in the bottom of the ramekins and press down with a spoon to form a smooth base. Put in the fridge to set while you make the filling.
  2. Using the small bowl of the Magimix again, mix together the cream cheese and condensed milk until blended. Remove and set aside.
  3. Using main bowl of the Magimix and the egg whisk, whisk the egg white until thick and frothy. Gently fold into the egg white into the cream cheese and condensed milk mixture. Add the zest of 1 lime and then pour into the ramekins.
  4. Put in the fridge and leave until set. It will not set completely but there should not be much of a wobble. Top with a strawberry and enjoy!

The egg white being whisked in Magimix

I really enjoyed making these recipes and I hope you will too, whether you make them for the world cup or for a summer inspired feast, anytime in the year. The Magimix did make the job of creating these dishes much easier, however I designed them so they are easy to make, whether you have a food processor or not.

Saúde! (Cheers! in Brazilian Portuguese)

For more Brazilian recipes made with a Magimix, please see Kavey Eats:

Bolinhos de Laranja e Limão

Brigadeiro

Disclosure: I was sent a Magimix CS 4200 XL Food Processor to keep for the purpose of this post. All recipes and opinions are my own.

Tasty Tuesdays

#recipeoftheweek

Product Review: Jus Rol Croissants, Pain Au Chocolat and Garlic Bread

I was recently contacted by Jus-Rol to see if I would like to try a selection of their products. I always use their pastry whenever I make pies, tarts and so on as I am really bad at pastry. It is my one major weakness in the kitchen!! Therefore, I decided to try other products within their range. I decided on the Pain Au Chocolat, Croissants and Garlic Pizza Bread.


I tried the Pain au Chocolat and croissants one morning when a friend came over. You have to get the dough out of the tin and roll the croissants and Pain Au Chocolat yourself. This was very easy and only took a couple of minutes before putting them in a pre-heated oven. I slightly overcooked them as I was chatting to my friend but they were still very flaky, buttery (not sure if this is a word!) and delicious! I would definitely cook them if I had people staying over and needed to cook them something delicious as the smell of them cooking would wake them up happy I am sure.
I tried the garlic pizza bread a few nights later with Stuart. We were impressed with the quality of bread. It tasted nearly like homemade pizza however we were very disappointed by the lack of garlic butter that actually stayed on the bread. Most of it ended up on the baking tray unfortunately and the bread ended up being quite dry. It was very easy to cook and I am sure I would use it again if a way could be found to keep the garlic butter on the bread. Could they change the shape perhaps or create a crust on the bread to help keep the butter in? Stuart suggested pricking the bread with a fork so there are holes there already which the butter can seep through.
What do you think of a Jus-Rol products?
Disclosure: I was sent some vouchers to try the products. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Family Fever

It’s Cheaper To Be A #MorrisonsMum!


I have a confession to make, despite doing most of my food shopping at a major supermarket beginning with a 'T', my favourite supermarket is actually Morrisons. However, I have about five of the 'T' supermarkets (Express and Extra branches) within 10 minutes drive of my house while my nearest Morrisons is 20 minutes away, therefore you can guess who mostly gets my business. I was very happy when Morrisons started doing home delivery recently and I am trying to do most of shopping through them that way.
I was very happy recently when Morrisons in partnership with BritMums sent me some vouchers so we could try out their new 'I'm Cheaper' promise. Morrisons have cut prices on over 1000 products and if it says 'I'm Cheaper' then it is staying cheaper forever. We loaded Thomas and Daniel in the car and went shopping on the Saturday morning of Bank Holiday weekend to our nearest large Morrisons in Rubery, South Birmingham.
The Shopping Experience

We started our shopping trip with a trip to the store cafe and a Full English Breakfast (the hubby and I had been out the night before!!) and were amazed at how fresh and delicious the breakfast was. We will go back there again for a meal that's for sure!
As ever at Morrisons, I was very happy with their large range of seasonal vegetables and the excellent way the fruit and vegetables are kept fresh by a water sprayer. On our way round the store, we saw fresh bread being baked and cakes being finished and packed in store too. The 'I'm Cheaper' shelf labels were everywhere too. All the staff were polite, helpful and very friendly. The baby changing area was very clean and the parent & toddler spaces were well signposted.
The Food
The meals we had were (cost per serving in brackets):
Sausage Sandwich (£1.60)
Chicken Noodle Stir Fry (£2.50)
Roast Chicken Sunday Dinner (approx £3)
Salmon, New Potatoes & Salad (approx £3)
Asparagus and Poached Eggs (£2.23 – I used the entire bunch in 1 serving)
Chocolate Brownie Tart (£1)
Overall, we were very impressed with all of our shopping. Everything was fresh and delicious. The roast chicken, salmon and chicken breasts were all purchased as part of the 3 for £10 deal. This means that if you have a meat-free night and used leftovers for a couple of nights then you could get all your families meat for a week for £10. A bargain!! The salmon portions were slightly small but the chicken (both types) was fine. Our total shopping bill came to £98 and that included a couple of bottles of wine, some store cupboard essentials and some steak for the freezer. I would love to go back to Morrisons when we have a big meal planned as I am sure we would save loads! The last bank holiday weekend was spent doing DIY so hence the lack of interesting meals!
Shopping is exhausting for some!!

Disclosure: I was sent vouchers to pay for my shop. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review

 

Product Review: Knorr Gravy Pots

I love Sunday dinner but sometimes the cooking of it can cause great stress to many people. For some reason, gravy can sometimes be hard or stressful to make as you make it last and you are worrying about keeping everything else warm while you are doing it. However, Knorr have come up with the answer to reduce stress in the kitchen and still have a great tasting gravy to go with your dinner.


Knorr's new Gravy Pots are little shots of flavour that when mixed with some water and/or meat juices gives you great tasting gravy without the fuss. They have recently been voted Product of the Year in the Gravy & Stock category. Product of the Year is the world's largest consumer-voted award for product innovation.
We tried the beef gravy with our roast dinner (pictured above) and we very impressed with the flavour. With added extra roasting juice from the beef, it tasted completely homemade and very yummy. The only issue I had with it was that it did not seem to make that much gravy for the three of us. I was very tired when I was cooking due to being up half the night with Daniel so I might have read the package wrong for how much water to add. I will try again and make I triple check the instructions for the right amount of water this time!!
Disclosure: I was a sent a roast dinner hamper and some Knorr Gravy Pots in order to do this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Product Review: Christmas Hamper from hampergifts.co.uk

Hamper 1

A short while ago, I was sent a Christmas hamper from hampergifts.co.uk. As I am pregnant I decided to try a non-alcoholic hamper called The Noël. We were very impressed by the speed of delivery (via courier) and how well packaged and presented the hamper was. Everything is held in place with cellophane and there is a large bow on top suggesting that there are lots of treats inside.

Hamper 2

The hamper contained:

  • Olives Et Al Chilli & Garlic Olives 150g
  • Dark Chocolate Coated Marzipan Loaf 100g
  • Cottage Delight Spicy Mango and Ginger Chutney 340g
  • Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Co. Fresh Ground Breakfast Coffee 56g
  • Large Christmas Fruit Cake 500g
  • Milk Chocolate Coated Almonds 150g
  • Alice McPherson's Petticoat Tails Shortbread 150g
  • Olive and Sesame Savoury Breadsticks 100g
  • Triple Chocolate Gourmet Cookies 100g
  • The Wooden Spoon Cranberry and Orange Sauce 113g
  • Walkers of London Milk Chocolate Fruit & Nut 240g
  • Buchanan's Chocolate Russian Caramels 100g
  • English Breakfast Tea x 10

hamper 3

Overall, we were very impressed with the hamper. There are lots of well known quality brands inside and the contents was very varied so there is something that everyone will like in it. The free teddy bear that came with the hamper is a nice touch especially for a younger member of the family. I have not sampled every product that came in the hamper yet but I can confirm the triple chocolate cookies, shortbread and Russian Caramels are divine! This would make an ideal present for a family who likes foodie things but who you are unsure what to get them.

Disclosure: I received a hamper to review. All views are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

Willy Wonka For The Day!

Me with my Finished Truffles

A little while ago, I was invited by Experience Days to try out one of their experiences in my local area. After much debate, I decided to do a chocolate truffle making workshop held in a hotel in Birmingham. The workshop lasted 2 1/2 hours and was led by Simon from Experience Chocolate. I have made truffles in the past but have never had 100% success with them so I was keen to learn some tricks of the trade.

Piped Truffle Mixture

We started by melting Belgian dark chocolate and mixing it with cold double cream. This instantly brought down the temperature of the chocolate and meant that a good truffle piping consistency was achieved almost instantly as opposed to way, I have made truffles before, where it is left in the fridge for hours to set. We then piped the mixture in long lines onto trays and then left them to set up a bit.

Simon temperaring chocolate

While the truffles set, Simon gave us a lesson in chocolate tempering so that the chocolate maintains its shine once set. Simon tempered a massive amount of chocolate on a cold slab using tools that you would normally find in your local hardware store. It was amazing to watch. I wish I had recorded it now!

Truffles ready for chocolate coating

After the truffles had set, we cut up our sausages of truffle mix and rolled them into balls ready for dipping into the tempered chocolate. Next up came the very messy stage where we had to dip them into the chocolate and various toppings. The toppings were caster sugar, icing sugar, cocoa and coconut.

Dipping truffles in chocolate

Dipping truffles in caster sugar

Dipped Truffles setting on the tray

Finally, once all our truffles were dipped and set, we put them into bags and tied them up with the ribbon. In total, I think I made about 40 truffles of various sizes. I had an amazing time at the truffle workshop and I would do something similar again with my friends. Many thanks to Simon and Experience Days for a wonderful time :-)

Disclosure: Experience Days provided me with a chocolate truffle workshop experience free of charge in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Restaurant Review: Handmade Burger Co. Bullring, Birmingham

A few weeks ago, a few local bloggers and I were invited to Handmade Burger Co. flagship branch in the Bullring to sample their food and meet the owner Chris and the marketing manager, Mike. I (Jo’s Kitchen) was joined by fellow bloggers Charlene, her husband Ian, and Elizabeth, along with Emma from the Bullring.

We perused their vast menu (who knew there could be so many burger choices!) and as Handmade Burger Co. does not do starters as such, we settled on a selection of chargrilled chicken and halloumi and vegetable skewers, served alongside an assortment of dips to share amongst us all. We tried all the chicken skewer flavours except the plain one. My favourite was the peri –peri as the chicken was really moist and tender, with a little bit of heat coming from the peri-peri. The dips were excellent too. I loved the hoisin and hot chill ones.

For my main, I chose the American cheese beef burger with an onion ring, gherkin, American mustard, mature cheese, mayonnaise and salad. I shared some peri-peri chips and onion rings sides with Emma. The bun was crisped to perfection and there was a generous amount of cheese on the burger too. The burger itself was charred on the outside and extremely moist within. It was unlike any burger I have eaten before. Due to the large portion size, I was unable to finish the burger. Next time I visit, I will probably have one of their smaller burgers as this one, although lovely was much too big for me to finish.  The sides were excellent too. I loved the peri-peri chips and the onion rings. The coleslaw was delicious and an excellent contrast to the rich burger. (I sneaked some to try from Charlene)

Chocolate Brownie Sundae

After a much-needed break, I decided to go for the chocolate brownie sundae for pudding. It was full of yummy vanilla ice cream, massive chunks of chocolate brownie and lots of chocolate sauce. I licked the bowl clean. It was yummy!

While we had been eating our meals, Chris chatted to us about why he started Handmade Burger Co and his beliefs in providing good quality food from other family run companies. The beef for his burgers comes from Scotland and is sent to the branches in mince form and they make the burgers themselves every day. The chicken is Red Tractor farm assured. Chris would like to use free-range chicken but cannot get it in the quantity he needs to supply all his stores. The bread comes from a family bakery that makes the buns according to Chris’s recipe. The potatoes are Maris Pipers and are brought to the branches as whole potatoes in bags and the chefs prepare them on site. Whatever Chris does not know about potatoes is not worth knowing!

Many thanks to Chris, Mike, Emma and my fellow bloggers for a lovely evening. I will definitely be back at Handmade Burger Co. soon!

Disclosure: I dined as a guest of the Bullring. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

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