I’ve tagged this post as Eating out Adventures and Food Fables as it’s a little bit of both. I mean, I did eat the food while I was out of the flat, but it was also a bit of a food fable. A few weeks ago the friendly folk over at Sushi Boy got in touch to say they were launching a delivery service, providing sushi, soup and noodle takeaway to lovely Leeds.
In these times of austerity I try to be good and take my lunch to the office four out of five days and treat myself to a special Friday lunch out (do you do the same, if so, where’s your favourite sandwich seller?). I therefore waited a whole week until my next treat Friday came around to make an order and I decided to spread the sushi love by inviting my colleagues to place an order too. I’m rather glad I did because our generous boss decided to treat us all to some platters to munch on during our agency lunch. Yes, that’s right, I got sushi delivered for free and you could to if you were an upwardly mobile professional working in the ultra sexy, smart sphere of marketing.
I’ll gloss over the other stuff that occurred over the agency lunch because frankly I don’t want to reveal too much about my genius viral marketing campaign involving C. Thomas Howell in case anyone else rips it off and makes a fortune. So, here are some photographs of the plentiful platters that arrived just in time to fuel our idea making.
My favourites from this plate were the beetroot and carrot rolls (far left) and smoked mackerel nigiri (far right).
Along with plenty of soy sauce, the platters came with pickled ginger and wasabi, which I greedily piled high on the many pieces I ate. My favourite from this plate were the cream cheese laden ones, which I found hard to resist despite my cheese allergy!
Knowing that my colleagues are like moths to a flame when free food is about, several of us ordered some noodles on top of the sushi – just to make sure we had plenty of energy for the challenging afternoon ahead. Unfortunately we broke into the generous-sized boxes before I could get a camera near them. However, the slurping noises and sauce-splattered chins suggested all the noodles were as nice as the sushi and I can personally vouch for the BBQ pork noodles, which had a nice hint of spice to them and plenty of meat.
All in all this was a very satisfying Friday feast and I think I’ll be ordering from Sushi Boy again and perhaps some other gourmet delivery services too if I can persuade my boss to fund it again….
I seem to start many of my Foodie Penpal posts by explaining why my post is late – we are meant to post on the last day of the month all at the same time. So, as has become the tradition…this month my post is late because I’m away for the weekend visiting some lovely friends in London, so have only just had the time to get to my laptop.
Excuses over, if you haven’t read one of my penpal posts before, Foodie Penpals is a scheme that originated in the US and was brought over to the UK by the lovely Thisisrocksalt, to find out more about how it works take a look at her blog or click on the badge at the bottom of my page.
This month my parcel came courtesy of Rachel over at Foodnerd4life, who I was very impressed to learn has the envious job of inventing pie fillings for a living. Since my evening of pie at Asda HQ ‘pie maker’ is a job I’m much aspiring to. I told Rachel I was feeling very Christmassy, loved spice and warned her about my limited cow milk intake, but gave her quite a loose scope on what I’d like to see in my parcel. In the end, she sent a package full of sugar and spice and all things nice. Here’s the beautiful food-inspired Christmas card that came in my parcel.
Inside the parcel was a real mix of ready-to-eat and quality ingredients. The diversity of this package blew me away and though I’ve not had a chance to sample much of it yet I’m very excited about doing so. The first thing I dived into was the homemade chocolate fudge, which I did share a little with my work colleagues (I’m nice like that). It’s always lovely when a penpal goes to the effort of making something for you and the fudge was delicious. I hope the fudge I’m making as part of my Christmas hampers turns out half as well. Rachel also include a mix for ;Joy the Bakers pancakes’, the recipe for which can be found on her blog (you should take a look, her blog is very pretty). The special thing about the mix is that it requires no eggs. Also in the sweet category was some Rabbit Candy from her local Chinese store.
Moving on the the spice, Rachel had included some fabulously fragrant Paprika from a recent trip to Madrid (it’s begging for me to make paella with it) and some Japanese chilli oil. And for the nice, I had some freeze dried olives and some unusual squid ink. I think I’ll probably put the olives into some scones and if Santa brings me the pasta maker I’ve asked for, the squid ink could well be making it’s way into a pasta dish. Here’s my impressive haul..
I sent my parcel to Kimberley Stout fullasanegg Manchester, who is a fellow baker and a bit of a chocolate lover. Kimberley told me that she liked ginger (which I may have got a wee bit carried away with). I sent her some festive chocolates from Bon Bons as I was feeling Christmassy, some chocolate coated ginger fudge – also from Bon Bons, lavender essence for baking and some Alnwick Marmalade complete with more ginger and rum. I was a bit worried about it looking like quite a small parcel but I’d blown my budget a little in Bob Bons. This little boutique chocolate shop is one of my go tos when I get partnered with someone with a sweet tooth.
There’s no foodie penpals running in December, but I am taking part in another exchange specially for Christmas, which has been organised by moneysupermarket.com. As I love giving and receiving parcels I couldn’t really resist when I was asked, so expect more details on that over the next few weeks.
There are few things I love more than pie and I mean few (I’m just going to leave that one lingering) and it seems I’m not the only lady who loves to dig deep into a hearty, moist pie. A survey from Asda published last month found that four in ten woman eat pie each month compared to only two in ten males. Take from that what you will.
Some people in high places somehow found out about my love of pie and invited me to the ultimate: an evening of pie. The event was held at Asda headquarters, Leeds and was an opportunity for bloggers to find out how Asda develop their pie recipes and then manufacture them on a large scale. On the agenda was a chat from the Asda pie team (yes, a team dedicated to pie), a cooking demonstration, some booze, a tour and even a baking challenge. It was the stuff of stuffed pastry dreams.
First we were introduced to the concept of recipe development and shown on a smallscale how to make one of the supermarkets’ new season pies the Ultimate Steak and Ale Pie. We were shown how the chefs make it in the kitchen and also told how to make it in the factory and I was surprised to learn that many tasks are still done by hand. I was also introduced to the concept of tumbling – putting corn starch around your meat to keep it moist. Another interesting tip imparted by the chief of pies was to cook your steak in half of your ale and add the rest of the ale once your gravy is formed, hereby giving more of a depth of flavour. Here’s a photo of the pie chief putting my crimping skills to shame.
Later in the evening, when the pies were ready, we got to sample them straight from the oven alongside real ale from the brewery where the pie’s boozy ingredient comes from. I really don’t like ale, but the pale ale from Joules (not the one pictured below) which we were also given the opportunity to sample was actually really nice. Light (as you’d expect), but still fragrant. Another thing I picked up on the evening was the concept of adding texture to the glaze of your pie. The Asda chefs sprinkled the top of their pies with oats, which inspired me to embellish my own pie when it came to the pie-off.
So, what’s a pie-off? Well, it turns out it’s a lot like Ready Steady Cook, or the invention round of Masterchef but solely pie-centric. My fellow bloggers and I were paired up and presented with a choice of ingredients to use from and asked to invent a pie of our own and let loose in the Asda kitchens. I was paired with a lovely member of Asda staff as there was an odd number of bloggers and she was kind enough to act as my sous chef (which mainly involved reassuring me when it looked like my pie was going crust up). I decided to make a version of my Pizza Pie by cooking chorizo directly into a tomato and red pepper sauce and layering it with spinach and a mix of cheese, onion and egg. This made for a really rich tricolore pie. Into my sauce went onion, fresh basil, garlic and diced chorizo, along with some sweet red peppers I roasted in the oven. Here it is on the assembly line.
As is fairly typical of my cooking, I made far too much mixture and actually ended up baking two pies, on with a puff pastry top and one entirely shortcrust. The pastry was readymade, but the crimping and glazing were down to me. I decided to add some black pepper to the top of one of my pies, inspired by the earlier chef’s showcase. Here I am in action:
When all of the pies were cooked we sat down to sample them all, alongside some gravy, tasty roasted veg and tatos. Comfort food heaven.
You know when you’ve wanted something for a really long time and you keep getting really close to it and then falling short at the last moment? Until just a few short weeks ago that was me and Dinner at the Manor. Dinner at the Manor is a Leeds based supper club with an excellent reputation, so excellent that tickets for the monthly events sell out pretty much centuries in advance as soon as they are announced. Right now – much to my dismay – it’s sold out until March 2013, which is why I felt super lucky when I finally bagged some tickets for one of their events a few weeks ago.
Dinner at the Manor events are usually themed around a famous chefs’ cookbook and this month it was Two Fat Ladies that were headlining. With cold nights closing in the indulgent and comforting menu was a delight to behold (on paper and on the night).
Dinner at the Manor cooks Sticky Pinny and Martini Man reveal in their post on the evening that the recipes they used were inspired by the Two Fat Ladies rather than taken from their book, which was apparently a bit hit and miss in terms of accuracy, the evening they served up was anything but hit and miss though, here’s the menu..
My partner in crime for the evening (that’s a joke for you, Edwards) was my lovely colleague Becs, a rare find who is as food obsessed as I, Becs can justify the eating of cake merely by telling you what day of the week it is.
“It’s Tuesday Fay, you can definitely have a cupcake with your lunch.”
On a dark, cold, Saturday evening with a hint of magic lingering in the air, Becs and I arrived a little late at the Manor. We were relieved and utterly grateful to find the other guests had left us a quota of the canapes and a generous serving of the warming sloe gin fizz. I’d love to tell you more about the venue, but unfortunately it’s a secret. All I can reveal is – it’s beautiful and filled both Becs and I with thoughts of selling family members into slavery in order to buy something just like it. We’d steal silver to be Ladies of our own manor.
Moving onto the food, which is what we did as soon as we arrived, we wasted no time in tucking into quail scotch eggs, crab cakes and poor man’s caviar, which we swilled down with the warming lightly spiced gin fizz.
During the excitement of the evening (read, as a result of greed and mass wine drinking) I forgot to take photographs of all that I consumed. Special thanks therefore go to Dinner at the Manor and in particular their photographer Nick Barker who have filled in the photographic gaps.
These are the canapes that welcomed us:
The Scotch eggs were salty, meaty and crunchy.
I scooped generous heaps of chilli jam on top of my crabcakes. Condiment heaven.
And, though all of the canapes tasted fantastic I especially loved the caviar, a aubergine pate/baba ganouch, which I intend to make myself soon.
After the canapes we were escorted to the beautifully dressed dining room and given an amouse bouche of an onion and ale veloute in a super cute cup (yes, cute=small because I am small). I was sure I had photographed this course but alas, my camera tells a different story. We chose our own seat at the table and at this point there was a little trepidation about how the night would turn out. Viewing thousands of episodes of Come Dine With Me had filled Becs and I with the notion that we could end up sharing our meal time with socially inarticulate snobs, or worse still, but we needn’t have worried. Everyone was open, chatty, friendly and made us feel no shame at all about our value bring your own wine choices.
Service from course to course was speedy, which was quite a feat considering their were two full tables of diners and only two chefs. Within moments of our veloute vanishing down our throats, with the slightly bitter ale and sweet onions tickling our tastebuds on the way down, we were looking at our starters. I would never have considered putting a tapenade with the slightly sweet fishcakes, but the result was fabulous and I had to resist licking the tapenade remnants from the plate (Dinner at the Manor make excellent condiments).
The main event was slow cooked pork, which had been bought locally. It was surprisingly light and served with a gorgeous jus and perfectly sliced boulangere potatoes. I like to tell people that my food – boulagere potatoes included – is rustic, in reality I’m just not as good at making things this straight and pretty. A bowl of exquisite salsa verde was put on the table to share. It cut perfectly through the sweet apple and caraway. I ate two thirds of the bowl of salsa verde by heaping spoons in quick succession when my fellow diners were engrossed in conversation. I hoped no one noticed.
Next up was a surprise course and what a perfect surprise it was. Before moving on to dessert we were presented with palette cleansing sour cherry sorbet. I cannot understate how much I love cherry flavoured things and stirred by my very deep love of all things cherrylicious, I actually remembered to take out my camera and photograph the goods. I’m slightly pained that I may never encounter this sorbet again (Suzy can I have the recipe please?!)
Quite unusually, dessert was the course I was looking forward to most on the evening and when it arrived I loved and cherished every mouthful. The sponge was very light for a pudding but the spices inside combined with the sticky ginger wine sauce meant there was a huge depth of flavour in every single bite. It gave you a hug from the inside.
With such a free-flowing succession of food and conversation, coffee time seemed to arrive quickly to us diners, but was probably an eternity in coming to our chefs, who joined us to chat while we munched on these beautiful little lemon meringue cupcakes. If you are wondering how I managed to hoof down all of this food, I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s amazing how much two bottles of Pinot Grigot will aid you in such an endeavour.
And so concludes my first trip to Dinner at the Manor. I almost wanted to keep it a secret and hummed and aaahed about blogging about it, it’s hard enough to get a ticket as it is! I hope you appreciate me sharing.
It’s always nice to be recognised for something that you’re good at and while boasting isn’t becoming to a lady such as myself, I’ve got to say it’s lovely to have received official recognition that I’m really truly excellent at um, eating.
That’s right, I’m now no ordinary Yorkshire-based food blogger, I’m in an award winning one with a plastic trophy and a prize of a bottle of wine (which lasted approximately one hour after my victory). I won the accolade of ‘Living Room Leeds Dining in the dark champion 2012’ by munching my way blindfolded through a selection of the restaurant’s new seasonal menu and unlike other things I’ve previously gotten medals and plastic trophies for (completing the Great North Run, sixth form award for study of French) I enjoyed every minute.
Firstly, the dining in the dark theme was more interesting than a simple new menu launch and as a chain, Living Room perhaps felt the need to excite a little more than most. I hadn’t been to the Living Room before but was pleasantly surprised with both the building and the quality of the food, which does tick the chain test of ‘having something for all’.
One of the nicest things about the event was getting to meet a few other Leeds bloggers and the atmosphere was friendly rather than cutthroat, which is reassuring when you are all blindfolded and armed with blunt spoons. We were asked to taste various foods and drinks and identify ingredients and flavours (in a Q and A format) and I’m pleased to say my gob did not let me down.
I snatched victory by the slenderest of margins (one single point) thanks to my real appreciation of meat. I was the only blogger to correctly identify the venison in the chef’s Venison Shepherds Pie (£13.25) and I’m certainly pleased that I did because my new shiny plastic trophy looks a treat next to the TV. Here’s me posing awkwardly for your appreciation.
So, now that I’ve bragged (I mean informed) about my taste skills, I should probably give you a rundown of the menu. One thing Living Room seem to do really well are cocktails and though I couldn’t go beyond identifying one as ‘vanilla-y’ they were very tasty indeed. A look at their website tells me you can get two cocktails for the price of one on Sundays from 3pm, which sounds like a decidedly more attractive option than cleaning my flat, which is what I did last Sunday.
Food-wise my favourites were the butternut squash, dolcelatté, walnut and honey tart £5.25 (buttery, crunchy, salty and sweet) and the pork and chorizo burger with a smoked paprika aioli on a brioche bun with chips (£10.25) (double meat, need I say more?). I am fast learning that burgers belong in brioche thanks to my recent trip to Manchester (expect my reviews of Solita andHomesweethome soon!)
I also found the Living Room to be rather good at luscious lentils, as the casserole that came with the pan fried sea bass orange scented broccoli (£15) and the braised lentils that accompanied the homemade Glamorgan sausgages with a sage and onion soubise and mash (£10) were deliciously rich, hearty and flavoursome.
Some surprise treats from this chain, I look forward to defending my title in 2013!
I’m not ashamed to say I judge the success of family parties by the quality of buffet on offer. I love a good buffet – it caters to my gluttony and my inability to narrow down on a menu what I want to order. I want everything, of course I do and that’s why I love buffets.
Now, as a buffetlover, there’s only one thing that comes above a buffet and that’s a free buffet. Yes, buffets at family dos are free but realistically you often have to exchange social awkwardness for mini samosas and volovants (I don’t care if they are a bit Seventies they are mini pies of dreams) and while I love a bit of awkward chitchat usually, I don’t want it to stand in the way of me enjoying a bhaji or appreciating a dip selection. Here in England to get your hands on a good buffet you usually have to sign up to attend an event like a wedding or a 50th birthday party, or perhaps gatecrash a funeral, but it’s not like that on the continent. Oh no, in places like Spain and Italy generous bar owners provide buffets to blush over for their customers and now we the little people of Leeds are being treated to this tradition too…
Vineataly at Granary Wharf has long had lots of things that appeal to me – a nice deli counter, a pleasing simple lunch menu, an incredibly convenient location and sparkly lights (which I associate with a pleasant ambience – just read my Little Tokyo post). Now it’s gone one better and started hosting it’s own free buffet (for paying drinking customers of course), which runs from 4.30pm every Friday evening. I was invited along to taste the wares and took my camera and a total lack of shame and piled my plate high.
In Italy they call this kind of bar tapas cichetti and each cicchetto on my plate was washed down lovingly with a mouthful of really nice Italian white wine. The wine was good by the way, I’m not just saying it because Vineataly plied me with tasty tiny sandwiches like these…
Toasted, meat-filled and conveniently mounted on cocktail sticks for easy pickings, you’d be hard pushed to find a better bar snack. I’m a firm believer that anything tastes better on a cocktail stick – just look at the wonder that is cheese and pineapple. This is one of the reasons Barcelona is near the top of my favourite holiday destinations, pinchos pinchos (Spanish tapas on sticks) is the perfect accompaniment to Rioja. Speaking of drinking and eating, if you plan on having a few glasses of vino, you might want to line your stomach with some trusty carbs, like this pasta salad.
I was quite surprised to find these bad boys on the menu, very apt since it’s national sausage week this week. It’s a little known fact I’m from the north, like even more Northern than Leeds and up there children are weaned on sausage rolls. These were better than those the younglings of my homeland are raised on – lovely light flaky pastry with a peppery sausagemeat filling.
The final photo below displays my favourite item from the buffet. I must be honest and admit that on first tasting them I knew not what they were apart from ‘crispy, risotto-filled balls with, um, tuna?’ a little research once home revealed the crunchy carby snacks to Arancini di riso – traditional Italian risotto balls that are usually deep fried. I loved them and what wasn’t to love? All of the filling surprise of the volovont enveloped in a carbohydrate sphere. Expect me to attempt my own soon, I’m searching for a good recipe and then it’s all systems Arancini di ri-go.
It goes without saying I’ll be heading back to Vineataly to hit up this Friday feastival again, though I’ll probably be a little more ladylike in my plate-filling approach in the future to leave plenty of space for wine and risotto balls.
I was extremely excited when I found out I was paired up with foodie penpals organiser for Europe Carol Anne over at This Is Rock Salt as I’ve seen some of the wonderful parcels she sends. I’ve also been left in awe of her mega organisation as she whizzed my beautiful parcel over to me so quickly, I’ve sampled (or completely demolished) most of it’s contents already! In fact, I cracked open one item so quickly I had to photograph it separately with my phone because I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and eat it and that was the bitesize coconut snowballs….
I’d told Carol Anne I liked a mix of ready to eat and ready to use goods and like trying new things and she really went to town, I’ve no idea how she managed to pack so much into the box. I’d also told her my favourite foods are meat, Thai foods and all Italian foods. Armed with this information and what must have been a considerable snoop on my blog, she put together the parcel below…
After the gooey marshmallow snacks the gorgeous homemade goats cheese and olive biscuits were next to go, which I dipped indulgently into hummus. Can I have the recipe please? The item that was perhaps most perfect for me (If I can pick one out in such a brilliantly put together package) was the homemade cherry brandy (again, recipe?). I adore all things cherry flavoured but particularly cherry brandy and I’m not ashamed to say I drank this neat from a glass with ice, cherrilicious!
I received my parcel on a Friday, which meant I was given the perfect opportunity to try out my Scotch Pudding the next day. This is usually fried and served along with a full breakfast, which I couldnt quite brave, so I ate mine fried and with some sliced banana on top (I’m sure my stomach will thank me for that minor calorie reduction).
Anchovie stuffed olives were the next thing to be virtually inhaled. I ate half while watching TV and the rest went into a a tomato and chilli sauce to top some cod (mmm, fishy). The condiment-cum-flavouring that was the smokey mesquite BBQ flavouring has so far found itself into chilli and atop some chicken. While the Italian sofritto paste, which I’d previously never heard of made its way into a beautiful low-fat courgette and tomato soup, which I’ve been feasting on at lunchtimes. I was surprised how much extra flavour the paste provided so I’m definitely going to be picking that up if I come across. Here’s what the soup looked like…
The only items surviving intact to date are the rock (a little extra from a local museum) and the Thai pancakes, which I’m saving for my next Asian inspired dinner party. This parcel really went a long way I’ve done some serious eating and drinking over the past fortnight and for that Carol Anne, I sincerely thank you!
Leeds is blessed with many lovely places to eat – restaurants, cafes, delis, supper clubs – we’ve got it all. I really do feel lucky to have so many great food choices, but unfortunately some of my favourites aren’t on my doorstep – or they weren’t!
Sukothai in Chapel Allerton has long been in my top three of places to eat in Leeds and a good takeaway from said establishment my failsafe recuperation aid when hungover (Thai food has that wonderful ability to make you feel healthier from the inside when you eat it). When I moved to the city centre, the distance from this branch and it’s sister restaurant Sukothai, Headingley where a source of great pain to me an undoubtedly the reason for many hangovers since to linger longer than they should. Fast forward to the end of summer and Sukothai South Parade opening and a very excited Fay.
I managed to squeeze in a takeaway the very first week of the restaurants opening – eating it without a hangover for more objective taste testing and I was pleased to find it delivered in every which way I’ve come to expect from Sukothai. However, it wasn’t until last week that I managed to arrange to dine in with a group of friends and this is what I found…
Much like the other branches of Sukothai, the restaurant itself is decadently decorated, though this has the added bonus of a small bar to the front, which is where we perched while we waited for our table. We had booked, so it was a little disappointing not to have our table ready for us, but the venue was packed out – as Sukothai always seems to be. We were soon seated at a table with an excellent view of the kitchen, giving me the perfect opportunity to watch the chefs do their work and stare longingly at every meal that headed passed us.
Our waitress came to take our order fairly quickly and I ordered the Khanom Jeeb (Steamed pork and prawn dumplings, served in soy sauce and topped with crispy garlic) at £5.95. We asked for some water for the table to drink along with the bottles of wine that we’d bought at the bar and found it a little odd that we were brought individual glasses of water, though this may have been a space saving exercise for the table, which was not overly spacious and fairly close to those nearby.
I’m a big fan of dumplings – Thai, Japanese and the ones that my Nana makes with loads of suet and cheese (I must make those soon now the cold weather has set in) and these were excellent (not too sure what happened with the photo). Moist, meaty yet delicate and with lots of crispy garlic and top and a delicious dipping sauce, They came with a side salad dressed in a light sweet chilli dressing. I enjoyed both sauces – maybe a little bit too much but just about resisted the urge to lick my plate clean because I was dining with more refined types.
Next up was Gang Kiew Wan Pak (Thai green curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bean curd, courgette and mixed vegetables) £8.95, with a side order of jasmine rice. I love ordering bean curd dishes in good Thai restaurants because the curd usually comes out cooked perfectly and excellently flavoured by the curry. The curd pieces in this dish were large and flavoursome, but I would say I thought the veg was a little overdone and there was a tiny bit too much fish sauce in for my liking as it was the overriding flavour. The portions were not large, but I was contentedly full after both starters and main.
The restaurant was very full but were not pushed by waiting staff to clear our table and we finished our wine before settling up. Overall the food and dining experience was very good, though the staff were perhaps not quite as attentive as those I’ve come across during my outings in Chapel Allerton. With the inclusion of the bar, and open plan kitchen, I get the feeling Sukothai are aiming for a slightly slicker affair on South Parade and the decor and quick service certainly hit the mark.
Forget going down to the woods today unless you wrap up really, really warm ‘cos it’s really cold outside. But, if you really do want to brave the wind and rain to explore all things autumnal, make sure you have something like this waiting in the oven at home!
Bread and butter pudding is real comfort food, but it’s also something that’s really hard to get right. Some recipes can be soggy, sticky and somewhat disappointing, but not this one. This new twist on a new favourite sprung out of a new twist on an even older favourite, here’s the food fable behind it’s creation…
Thanks to Twitter, I recently stumbled across a new brand called The Healthy Bears who make bear-shaped bread (yep, you read that right). I’ve long been interested in ways to encourage younger folks to eat more healthily and this wholemeal bread seemed like a good way to wean little uns off white bread into something altogether more, um, wholesome! Intrigued, I got in touch with the lovely bears at Healthy Bears (I know they probably are not bears but it makes them seem more magical and improves the story if we pretend they are) and they sent out a loaf for me to try. So far, so good. Unfortunately, it was left up to my not-so-competent concierge Barry to take delivery of said bread. As regular blog readers will know, Barry is not brilliant at parcel care and thus the loaf was returned to the Royal Mail depot twice before I gave up and headed off to my local Asda to buy a loaf for myself. Should you want to do the same, you’ll find the quirky creations in Asda stores across the nation.
Loaf finally in hand, I was quite impressed with the colour and sponginess of each slice, which was rather long and thin thanks to it’s bear shape. Although it may be tricky to use for sandwiches, the shape of the bread is spot on for toasted soldiers and perfect for the dish I chose to turn it into : Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding. Although the bread kept fresh for a week, I often find living on my own that I struggle to get through a whole loaf at once, so I decided to take this opportunity to do a bit of experimentation and come up with a recipe for something quick and tasty using the bread. I opted for a savoury bread and butter pudding that can easily be made vegetarian or free from cow’s milk (which most of my meals happen to be!)
Savoury Bear and Butter Pudding recipe
Eight slices of Healthy Bears bread (or six slices of normal bread cut into triangles)
Margarine/sunflower spread (around 50g)
Unsweetened soya milk (400ml)
Two reduced fat sausages, grilled and chopped
One large vine tomato (sliced)
One small red onion (cut into wedges)
Mozzarella ball or goat’s cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 180c and grease a rectangular oven-proof dish. I used my lasagne dish that turned out to be the perfect size. Next, spread the bread on each side with the sunflower spread or margarine and spread the mustard on one side. Lay in the dish with mustard and spread sides alternating. Use the other ingredients to hide as surprises between the slices. So, slip nice juicy vine tomato slices between the bread, alongside red onion wedges and chunks of sausage. I used two reduced fat sausages in this recipe as I’m on a bit of a health kick, but you could up the meat content or leave it out altogether.
Beat the eggs in a measuring jug, add the soya milk and mix together well. You can use normal milk here but I tend to cook with soya milk because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me. Pour the mixture over the bread and allow it to soak in for a few minutes. Covering with cheese adds the finishing touch and helps create a great bubbly, crunchy texture on top. I used mozzarella but a hard goat’s cheese or even Feta would work well.
Bake for around 35 minutes until the egg mixture is cooked and your bread and butter pudding is golden, crispy and delicious. The texture lies somewhere between a luxury French Toast and a Croque Madame and is utterly delicious. I served mine with some rocket and chilli jam (which I’d received in my last foodie penpals parcel). It was beary, beary nice!
Deciding on a winning cupcake batter is no easy task, but this chocolate rolo recipe will definitely help you make friends and influence people….
I make no secret of the fact I love cake, it’s a longstanding relationship that I don’t see breaking down anytime soon. My ability to make fairly good cake is something I’ve used to my advantage over the years; it’s surprising how well a promise to regularly bring cake into the office goes down in a job interview.
Though I’m a fairly confident baker I’ve always been a little bit nervous when it comes to icing and decorating and that’s because my mother has always excelled in this department. For years I’ve been in constant awe of her ability to sugarcraft everything from carefully tinted roses to lawnmower pushing gardeners and it’s put me off going beyond piping.
I’d decided to tackle this fear head on by starting small and making lots of cupcakes over the coming months, so when I heard about the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning I thought it was the perfect excuse to get practising. I got the cake-loving fraternity at work on board and several other people agreed to bake sweet and savoury goods for the event, which was set to be a day of cake.
I wanted to be sure the cakes I made would be good (just in case my decoration wasn’t so hot) and so I chose to use my favourite chocolate fudge cake recipe (courtesy of good food) into something a little different. The cakes I made contained a chewy rolo centre and were decorated with a vanilla frosting with a hint of caramel. Some of the cakes were topped with a second rolo and others mimicked a 99 by addition of a stick of Crunchie (I wanted the cakes to sell well and everyone knows variety is the spice of life.
They turned out really well (phew) and I was rather pleased with their appearance too, which won such vocal praise as: “They look shop bought”. Brill. I was slightly disappointed the rolo sank to the bottom in a few of the cakes, though this probably occurred because it’s such a light cake batter. To prevent this in future I’m going to try dropping them into the top of the batter in future and covering any indents with icing.
If you want to make your own and you should because they are light, fluffy and sugartastic, this is what you need to know:
The ultimate chocolate cupcake batter (makes 12)
175g self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs beaten
2tbsp golden syrup
150ml sunflower oil
150ml semi skimmed milk
1 packet of rolos (frozen)
Gorgeous golden frosting
225g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
Good squeeze of golden syrup (about 2.5 tbsp)
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Golden sugar balls (Dr Oetker)
Chocolate or caramel sauce
Preheat the oven to 180C then roll up your sleeves, put on your apron and get measuring. This can be a messy affair if you aren’t careful as the light fluffy cakes come from a very runny batter! First up, measure all of the dry cake ingredients into a bowl and mix. Next, beat your eggs in one bowl and measure your oil and mil, into a jug, measure to mix together.
Next, pour the wet ingredients and the beaten eggs into a well in the middle of your flour/cocoa/sugar/bicarb mix and mix.
You should get a lovely silky mixture like that above, which you need to try to transfer into muffin cases in a deep muffin tray. Warning: this is the tricky bit!
Fill the cases about two thirds full, before dropping a frozen rolo into the centre of each one and top with a little batter .
Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes (they may be ready slightly earlier depending on your oven). When they are ready they should be spongey to the touch and a lovely golden brown colour.
Once cooled it’s time for decoration. I chose to make mine look a little ice cream like by piping the caramel coloured frosting and topping with a rolo or crunchie chunk. I finished the cakes off with golden sugar balls for extra crunch and a delicious drizzle of chocolate sauce, though if you want to go all out for a rolo theme a caramel sauce would work well.
I’m not sure what type of cupcake I want to tackle next, I was thinking of perhaps going traditional and experimenting with red velvet cupcakes and going to town with a Halloween themed decoration. Any suggestions folks?