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
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
For the spooky bit
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
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.
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’
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’
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’
They say: ‘The range is known for its consistency, approachable style and balance’
We say: ‘excellent’ ‘very dry’ ‘my favourite so far’
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’
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:
Disclosure: I received 7 bottles of Hardy’s Chardonnay for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own or my fellow tasters.
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.
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:
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)
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)
Churrasco Steak with Salsa and Coriander 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
For the Salsa
For the rice,
Brazilian Inspired 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)
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
The hamper contained:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.