Monday, 24 December 2012

Mighty Mince Pies

It was the night before Christmas.........!

So, what better way to get in the festive spirit than by hitting the kitchen and cooking up some good old Mince Pies.  From November, mince pies take over the supermarket shelves throughout Britain but nothing compares to making them yourself and they can be surprisingly easy and quick to make.

Mince pie recipe - 01

Turn up the Christmas tunes and pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and get cooking some mince pies for Santa.
Firstly, you will need to get these ingredients:

Mince pie recipe - 02

375g Shortcrust pastry
1 egg
Caster Sugar
The shortcrust pastry is the part that can be most time consuming.  I prefer to make my own pastry although you can get some ready-made in all supermarkets now. 
Once you have your pastry, roll it out thin and use circle cutters to create the mince pie bases - you can use a wine bottle if you don't have a rolling pin and a wine glass to cut the circle shapes.  Place each circle into a mince pie or shallow cupcake tin which has been greased with a little bit of butter.
Fill each case with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat...

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Cut smaller circles or star shapes with the remaining pastry and place them on top of the cases and seal the edges together.

Create an enticing glaze on your mince pies by brushing the tops with a beaten egg and don't forget to pierce two small holes in the top to prevent them from exploding in the oven.
Then sprinkle over some caster sugar and place in the oven at 200 C for around 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Mince pie recipe - 04

Leave them to cool on a wire rack and then you're ready to start the Mighty Mince Pie Challenge! For those that can't quite meet the challenge, they can be stored in a sealed tin for a few days.

Mince pie recipe - 04
Don't forget to leave a mince pie and glass of sherry for Santa tonight!


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Mulled Wine

Celebrate the festive season in style with some homemade mulled wine - perfect to share on a cold winter evening and it leaves a Christmassy aroma in the kitchen!

Mulled wine recipe - 01
100ml orange juice
100g dark muscovado sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 an orange, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
Place a saucepan on a low/moderate heat and slowly mix the orange juice and sugar together.  Once they have mixed together add the cinnamon stick and sliced orange and leave on a moderate temperature for about 10 minutes.
Now the important part - adding one bottle of red wine.  This doesn't have to be expensive and is open to grape varieties.  I often use supermarket's own wine brands and tend to go for a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Once the wine has been added, leave to heat up on a moderate heat and serve warm.

Yuletide Chocolate Log

Merry Christmas!
I was given the extremely important job of cooking up Christmas Lunch for the family this year.  We had turkey and all the trimmings but the table centre piece was the Yuletide Log which I served for dessert...

Yuletide log recipe - 01
Easy to make, this cream-filled cake doesn't have to be used at Christmas time - cover it in smarties and colourful icing and it can become a catepillar birthday cake! 
150g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
50g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
vanilla extract
200ml double cream
300g dark chocolate
vanilla extract
20g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Whisk together the sugar and eggs for around 15 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.  In a separate bowl sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and fold this in to the egg mixture.  Pour this mixture into a rectangle baking tray and cook for 10 minutes, until light and springy to touch.
Place a large piece of greaseproof paper on a worktop and sprinkle with caster sugar.  Once the sponge has cooled, remove from the baking tin and place on the greaseproof paper.  Peel off the baking paper and roll the sponge, using the paper - this will set the shape of the dessert.
Leave the sponge like this as you prepare the filling. Whip the cream until it holds its shape.  Roll the sponge out and spread the cream over it and roll back again - this time without the paper.
The topping can be tricky to make as it takes ages to set.  Break the dark chocolate pieces into a glass bowl.  On the hob, boil the caster sugar and 200ml of water for two minutes.  Add the mixture to the chocolate and whisk well.  Once it begins to thicken spread over the roll and leave in the fridge to set.  If you have difficulty making the ganache thicker, use icing sugar.
I keep some extra ganache aside and heat it up when I served the log to pour over the top.  Add some holly and icing sugar to the top.

Yuletide log recipe - 02

Friday, 2 November 2012

Bonfire Bangers: Poshdogs and Bubbles

It's that time of year again that I love the most.
Christmas is quickly approaching, the evenings are getting darker and there is always an excuse to warm up around a fire with a hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and extra whipped cream.

Bonfire night has always been a favourite of mine.
There's something magical about fireworks night, whether I've been toasting marshmallows on a massive camp fire with the Brownies or just watching next door's fireworks from my bedroom window, there is something that captivates me about the colourful fire dancers as they light up the sky.

My most memorable bonfire nights though have to be the ones spent at home with my family.  The evening always starts off with Mum's hot dogs in one hand and sparklers in the other as we stand back and watch Dad's amateur fire work display - I'm sure he nearly set the garden fence on fire every year!

This year I'm away from home in London so I'm bringing the family tradition here.  Inspired by the latest foodie craze to hit London, I am going to be cooking up some 'Poshdogs' and serving them to friends with some bubbles.

Hotdog recipe - 01
Hotdog recipe - 02

Red Wine
Sauces of your choice

I've added an extra kick to my hot dogs by marinating them in my Pumpkin and Chilli Chutney and cooking them in a little bit of red wine - mixed together, these fill your kitchen with amazing aromas as they cook in the grill.

Chutney recipe - 01

Once cooked, serve up in a hearty baguette and enjoy with a flute of sparkling - who would have thought this old school junk food classic would go so well with Champagne's finest!!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Halloween Treats - I BAKED A PIE!

Halloween is here!
But before you grab your witches hat, fake blood or morph suit....invite your friends over, light up a toasty fire and crack open a bottle (or two) of red vino?


Pumpkin pie recipe - 01

1 pack of ginger snaps, crushed
100g butter
2 eggs
Roasted pumpkin
Double cream

Pumpkin pie recipe - 02 

Cut the pumpkin up and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until they are nice and crispy.
While the pumpkin is roasting, greaseproof a flan tin and melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter and mix together.  
Line the base of the flan tin with the butter/biscuit mixture.....

Mix together the eggs, pumpkin, ginger, cream and lots of honey with a whisk to create a thicker mixture.  Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for about 30 minutes - watching to not burn the top.

Cover the top with honey in the shape of a spider web and sprinkle some grated chocolate over the honey....

Pumpkin pie recipe - 03

Pumpkin Chutney recipe - 01

Pumpkin chunks
2 apples, peeled and cubed
1/2 Onion, chopped
4 Garlic cloves
2 fresh chillies
70g currants
1 medium bottle white wine vinegar
1 medium packet of dark brown sugar

This recipe is easy peasy and to make and is a great addition to any cheese board this autumn and winter.

Pumpkin Chutney recipe - 02Put the pumpkin, apples, chillies, onion, garlic, ginger, currants and two-thirds of the bottle of vinegar into a saucepan and bring to boil.  Leave to simmer for 45 minutes until everything softens....

Pumpkin Chutney recipe - 03

Add the sugar and a sprinkle of salt to the mixture and you will instantly see a colour change and it will all thicken.  Add in the rest of the vinegar and a sprinkle of currants to create some texture.  For those wanting some extra spice, add some chilli powder.

Bring to boil and simmer for another 30 minutes.  After this time, leave the mixture to cool and your chutney is ready....

Pumpkin Chutney recipe - 05


Pumpkin soup is a favourite winter warmer every spice it up by adding some chilli powder or indian spices such as garam masala or even paprika - experiment!

Pumpkin soup -01

......and, don't forget, pumpkin seeds are a fab snack.  Roast them in honey for about 30 minutes.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Pimientos de Padron are back!

A popular Spanish tapas dish, Piminetos de Padron look simple but these little fellas are jam-packed with flavour and are HIGHLY addictive.  The majority of the peppers are mild and easy to eat but the odd extra spicy one does slip into the packet....

They are now in high season in Spain which means they are finally available to buy over here as well and are stocked in most Waitrose stores.

Pimientos de Padron recipe - 01

Nice and easy to prepare, they only take about ten minutes to fry and are then ready to be served right away.

Pimientos de Padron recipe - 02

After washing the peppers, add them to a frying pan at a medium temperature and cover them in plenty of oil.  Sprinkle over a coating of ground salt as they are frying.  Be careful as the fat will start spitting.

Pimientos de Padron recipe - 03

As the peppers begin to cook they will form blisters on the skin.  Once they have all blistered they are ready to serve!

Pimientos de Padron recipe - 04

Place on some tissue of grease paper to get rid of the excess oil, sprinkle over some rock salt (Mallorca is a famous producer of rock salt that goes perfectly with Piminetos) and, voila, they are ready to enjoy with a bottle of cava!

Pimientos de Padron recipe - 05

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Restaurant: The Hamborough by Robert Thompson


It's not every day that you get the pleasure of dining in Michelin Star opulence but two weekends ago we were lucky enough to be staying in the fantastic boutique hotel, The Hamborough.  Located on the clifftops of Ventnor, Isle of Wight, this luxury retreat is renowned for its culinary credentials as it is home to the only Michelin Star restaurant on the island.  So, as hotel guests, we thought it was only right to try the special treats on offer downstairs.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 02

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 03

Set-up by chef Robert Thompson, the restaurant is a nice size with a relaxed atmosphere.  The menu has an awful lot of thought behind it, as would be expected of one with such credentials, and credit must go to the sommelier for creating one of the best wine lists I have tried in a long time - if you're still trying to get your head around food and wine pairing, they have it down to perfection at The Hamborough.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 05
The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 04

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 06

After some delicious cheese balls, we had a creamy mushroom amuse bouche.

Following current trends, Robert Thompson brings a taste of India through his clever starter of seared Scottish scallop with courgette "en fleur" with scallop moouse, tandoori spices and onion bhaji.  This was matched perfectly with a glass of Macon Pierreclos, Domaine Marc Jambon et Fils 2010 from Bourgogne.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 07

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 09

Slow cooked leg of rabbit with locally caught lobster, peas, broad beans, baby onions and romaine lettuce sauce were served as the main course. This was matched with Clos Beylesse, Domaine de l'Abbaye, Cotes de Provence.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 09

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 09

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 10

We followed this up with the epic cheese board additional course which included a local soft cheese from the Isle of Wight, Waterloo and Wigmore.  The wine list recommended Port to go with this but as I'm not a big fan, the sommelier suggested a red Rioja which, just as the other courses, very much complemented all the different cheese flavours.

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The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 12
The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 13

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By far the highlight of my meal was the dessert - a delice of valrhona chocolate with a lavender milk sorbet.  Literally chocolate was amazing.  This course also had the best wine match and it was the first time I've ever tried a wine from Uruguay.  The chocolate notes and balance of the Alcyone, Tannat, dessert wine were again an extremely pleasant match.

Presentation was key with this dish and myself and other people around the room who ordered the same couldn't help but let out a 'WOW' as it arrived to the table.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 17

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 18

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 19

After four hours of mind-blowing food, a range of fabulous wines and fantastic company it was time to toodle back upstairs to our room and collapse into a massive food coma whilst reminiscing about each course.

The Hamborough Isle of Wight - 20

The Hamborough, Ventnor, Isle of Wight PO38 1SQ (

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Spotlight on Buckingham Palace


Buckingham Palace blog - 01

Last weekend Mama T came up to London and what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than wandering around the fantastic rooms at Buckingham Palace followed by a delicious cream tea in the Royal gardens? 

By far the biggest tourist attraction in London (probably even worldwide), Buckingham Palace has played the backdrop to many Olympic events this year with all the major road races passing by this iconic backdrop.

It's not just its size and splendour that attracts tourists from all corners of the world but its aura and mystery leads to much attention and speculation about what life within the palace must be like.

Well luckily for us, Queenie opens the palace gates to the public during the summer months, allowing all our Princess dreams come true - and, trust me, it's simply spectacular!

Buckingham Palace blog - 02

 Buckingham Palace blog - 03
Unfortunately no photographs can be taken inside the palace but we spent the afternoon touring the State Rooms, wandering through the never ending hallways which are lined with some fantastic collections of art and statues and having a sneak peak at some of the Queen's most precious diamonds.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the Royal Family but the oppulence within the state rooms was beyond belief.  Of course I knew the palace was going to be grand but the gold ceilings, ellabroate decorations and extensive world-famous art collections made me feel as though I was in an Arabian palace and was not what I expected.

By far the highlight of our afternoon at the palace was the vast and beautiful private gardens....

Buckingham Palace blog - 04

Buckingham Palace blog - 04

Buckingham Palace blog - 05

The palace cafe on the garden terrace next to the swimming pool offered the perfect location to spend a sunny afternoon and served up a delicious afternoon tea selection...

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Buckingham Palace blog - 07

Buckingham Palace blog - 08

Before leaving we went on a stroll and explored the gardens a bit further and came across this hidden lake...

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Buckingham Palace blog - 12


Buckingham Palace blog - 13      

A fantastic afternoon that I would put at the top of all to-do lists when visiting London over the summer.