BAKING: Red Velvet cupcakes…that actually went well!

I know every man and his dog has made Red Velvet cupcakes but I wanted to make them and actually get it right for once, so for a friends birthday I decided to make some….and I actually got them right (horray!)

I usually head straight to my trusty well-known-cupcake-shop’s cookery book to tackle said cupcakes, but they unfortunately never seem to work out well for me so I went to the boss lady; the only and only Nigella Lawson!

I won’t bore you with a step by step so please click here for good old Nigella’s recipe and method

Using such strong food colouring and so much of it almost feels illegal ( trust me, you have to use the super toxic strong stuff) but if you don’t do it they come out a horrible brown colour – and that doesn’t impress anyone.

Process

I made the cream cheese frosting that Nigella suggests; it was great but could have been a little cream-cheesy-er and maybe a little less lemony but still, it was super tatsy. I used a Wilton 2D nozzle to create the flower piping.

Next time I make these I will be sure to add a bit more coca powder – I know Red Velvet isn’t just about the chocolate but man do I love my chocolate and I love the rich-ness that comes through from the chocolate.

Overall these cupcakes were velvety, moist and rich in taste – thanks Nigella you babe! They also pulled away so easily from their cases which is the sign of a good bake – horrah 🙂

Emma was very happy in the end…as was I…as was my office who got the other 15 cupcakes….

Cupcakes

The amazing Tales & Spirits – Amsterdam

WHERE: Lijnbaanssteeg 5-7, 1012 TE,  Amsterdam
WHEN: 12/04/14
WHY: We fancied a fancy meal out during our weekend in the ‘dam

A late post I know…time has run away with me and I seem to be a little behind…oops.

SO, during my wonderful trip to Amsterdam, Mr A. and I went to this utterly incredible restaurant/cocktail bar. I was recommended (more like ordered) by a friend so visit – so we managed to get a booking and hurrah! there we were, sat down in this beautiful cocktail bar hidden on a backstreet reading a small novel (which actually was the cocktail menu) Here’s a handy link to the website where most of their cocktails are listed
Tales & Spirits

We were greeted by a lovely, smiley waitress who knew my name (nice touch!) who I had actually already been texting to confirm our reservation and ask for directions.

We were sat down and given two small wooden books – these my friends where the cocktail menus. They had a small story behind each of their house cocktails and a lengthy list of other cocktails – all with a great description and quirky name. We started off with “Bird Is The Word” (rum based) and “Quiz Fizz” (gin based) which were both lavely!

Tales

The most AMAZING aperitif Pea soup arrived shortly after our cocktails – I honestly haven’t tasted anything quite like it. The texture was beautifully smooth and the flavours were so intense and rich without being too ‘pea-y’

Our lovely waitress came back and started her well rehearsed speech in how to order…the menu was slightly different to normal in the sense all of the dishes are small so you are recommended to order two each. I was confused though  because they are not like tapas – but a weird in-between main and starter. We got stuck in though and chose the following…
Hummus with asparagus, tempura, rye-sesame crumble, baby red chard and poppadums’
This particular combination of ingredients didn’t seem like they should work together, but they did, and it was all presented in a lovely (slightly random) flower pot
Risotto with sautéed wild mushroom, rocket lettuce & Parmesan
Really incredible but a little rich alongside all of the cocktails!
Beef fillet with dauphine potato, aceto reduction and Serrano crumble
The beef was cooked to perfection (as expected) and the aceto reduction was really, really great – a must have.
Mini ciabatta’s with dukkah and extra-virgin olive oil
They were mini and in a little leather sack – who wouldn’t love that!

The beef, asparagus tempura & risotto.

The beef, asparagus tempura & risotto.


*Sorry for the rubbish photos*

We didn’t go for a desert and instead ordered two ‘Zombie’ cocktails…the ‘Zombie‘ cocktail is a combination  of rum and absinthe and other stuff and limited to only two per person…I have had similar in London a few times (a well known being the ‘Grog’ in Meat & Liquor) so nothing to write home about but still damn tasty – and they set it on fire! Whey!

All in all I had a wonderful, wonderful experience  at Tales & Spirts. The décor was beautiful, the food was amazing, and the atmosphere and staff were great! The size of the portions was a little annoying and I would prefer actual dishes but that won’t stop me going back next time I am in the ‘dam.

P.S. It all came in at a cool 92 EURO so defiantly not the cheapest place to eat out. And we probably could have eaten more.

A lovely BAGEL bar in Amsterdam

WHERE: Raadhuisstraat 18, 1016 DE, Amsterdam
WHEN: 13/04/14
WHY: We got lost and needed to eat.

Just a quick post on an amazing bagel place I discovered when Mr A and I had a long weekend in Amsterdam last week….

We were wondering around downtown (I think it was ‘downtown’, it’s hard to know where ‘downtown’ actually is if you have no idea where you are…) and stumbled across a lovely little bagel place. Now I know you may be thinking “uh, bagels, how boring” but I have to give this place a review – the concept was amazing. All they did was serve bagels, the odd sweet treat and really great coffee.

I was in love with the menu – an intricate book on every which way you could have your bagel. There was every type of bagel available: spelt, gluten free, white, brown, oat, cinnamon, tomato and more. They have covered every part of the day – breakfast, 11evens, lunch, brunch…and even had things like ‘bagel tapas’ which I just thought was genius! The menu also told a beautiful story of how Bagels & Beans was started…here’s a lovely handy link to the menu (it is well worth a look!)

It was such a lovely, happy environment and I myself have always dreamed of owning something similar. And the bagels were really damn tasty!

What you see below is the Prosciutto Di Monastero with Parmigiano Reggiano & Pine Nuts and two great cappuccinos YUM

bagel montage
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BAKING: Creme Egg Brownies

I had a random day off today so I thought I would go crazy and bake something I’ve been thinking about for a while…

CREME EGG BROWNIES (well, it is almost Easter!)

I have had some tough times with brownies recently so I was a little nervous that I’d mess up (I spent about £7 on chocolate alone!) but I took the plunge anyway…

Actually – before we start, I’ve calculated that these come out about 430 calories per brownie (if the batch is cut into 12)

After a quick google search I settled on the Woman’s Own Recipe (<—that’s a handy link to the recipe and ‘how to’)
I liked this recipe as it was simple and included a no fuss brownie mixture, it was easy to follow so I was happy (you can see the easy steps in my wonderful step by step below ha)

ImageMy favourite part was smushing the halved creme eggs into the slightly cooked brownies (see photo number 5). Cutting the Creme Egg’s was a bit tricky so make sure you use a really sharp knife and do it quickly (without cutting yourself!!) otherwise the Creme Egg mushes and crumbles and that’s not what we want…(see photo number 4)

I think they were a little overcooked as the edges were a tad crispy (probably because I had my oven too low to start with so I ended up cooking them for longer than recommended – hmpf!) but they did actually turn out well. They were so goey and chocolatey and lovely and rich….actually, they were really delicious. An all round winner I’d say!

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BAKING: A Fabulous Flower Pot Cake ROUND 2

The big day came along (Mothers Day) and it was time for me to make my Fabulous Flower Pot Cake all over again.

I made a few fundamental changes to my Fabulous Flower Pot Cake – Trial Run

HERE ARE MY CHANGES IN AN EASY TO READ LIST 🙂

1. Instead of a Rich Chocolate cake, I baked a Madeira cake (which was utterly DELISH)
This was much better idea as the rich chocolate cake literally made your face sweat as it was so intense.

2. To avoid the whole fridge drama (cakes don’t like being in the fridge but cream cheese frosting does!) I decided to make a butter cream for the flowers on top.
Unfortunately, butter cream (for some reason, could be my creaming skills) doesn’t create a smooth edge when piped into a flower shape. Which looks messy. And I wish I had stuck with the cream cheese frosting.

Cake step by step
3. I made a fresh strawberry butter cream for the filling and the crumb coating – it was SO tasty but a little running.
I didn’t dry the strawberries after washing and in hindsight I realised I probably should have. I used some of the left over strawberry butter cream to pipe some of the flowers and it was a nightmare as it was so runny! oops.

4. I did use double the fondant icing and it made the whole cake look 100% better than before! yay! And I made the brown myself (with red & green food dye so I was proud eh!)

Overall, the cake was a success! I do wish I had pipped the flowers on more neatly  but I was having some issues with thickness of butter creams etc. and slowly losing the will to live so they got a bit messy. I was pleased with the end product and my biggest critics, the fam, seemed to be pleased also! Horrah!

Final cake
P.S. I am LOVING using all of my new fancy baking tools 🙂

BAKING: Sometimes troublesome BROWNIES

I have had a longstanding issue with brownies…it seemed that whatever I did (bigger tin, smaller tin, bake for longer, bake on a lower temp, different recipe’s etc. etc.) they always REFUSED to be a brownie. They always turn out like some sort of joke type chocolate paste/mousse/mush.
WELL, NOT FOR MUCH LONGER.

Last night I thought I would tackle my brownie issue for the 100th time and I am very pleased to say THEY TURNED OUT REALLY WELL. I could actually pick them up and hold them and take them around with me.

The recipe I used was created by Mr. A’s wonderful mother. I also added some cheeky fudge pieces and for half of the chocolate I used was a Galaxy ‘Cookie Crunch’ bar.

I’m not quite sure what I did differently to make these work…I think it may have been the large baking tray I used and the temperature. And the time, I left them in for a little too long.

We ate them all before I had time to take fancy photos but here was the finished product.
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I am excited to get started on some adventurers brownie recipes now 🙂

Marvelous Mezze, Bethnal Green, London

WHEN: 21/03/14
WHERE:Mezze Barbeque Restaurant, 150 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0RY
WHY: We, a group of hungry locals, wanted some good food.

Since moving East, there has been a Lebanese food shaped hole in my life, so naturally I was thrilled when my friends suggested we go to Mezze on Roman Road. I had actually already been to this place a couple of years ago but totally forgot. I was excited to go back and actually remember what I had eaten…

The restaurant décor/space itself is nothing special, it actually looks like a low brow (can you say ‘low brow’!?) café but the staff are LOVELY…we had a great Geordie girl who was not afraid to crack some (average) jokes.

It is also Bring Your Own Booze which is amazing.

Menu and BYOB

WHAT DID WE ORDER?
Starters..Halloumi Wrap, Hummous and the Mized Meza platter
Mains…Lamb Pide (pronounced pi day) and Mixed Meza Grill.

Bread And Starter

The Halloumi wraps were amazing…they were almost a meal (well, lunch) in themselves. In my beloved Tooting Bec Meza, the wraps are literally melted Halloumi in pitabread but here, they are so much more – you get salad, dressing, the lot. The Mixed Meza platter was also great, there were some creepy beans on there that we were not sure of but with the gorgeous fresh bread they bring over with it really makes it a winner.

Pide and Meat

For mains we went for a Lamb Pide and a Mixed Grill. In hindsight, we could have ordered an extra dish. What we did order though was bloody great. The Pide is really special – the waitress described it as “Lebanese pizza shaped like a small canoe”
The meat here is beautifully cooked and well seasoned.

Overall, the restaurant and food do feel very authentic. The staff and great and we had a lovely, lovely time. Also…the food came to a total of £10.50 EACH! £10.50!

We were all extremely full after our great meal smugly headed off to a local pub (The Victoria on Grove Road, in case you wondered)

Here, you can see us being happy, full people…

HAPPY