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!

Image

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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‚Äôs wonderful mother. I also added some cheeky fudge pieces and for half of the chocolate I used was a Galaxy ‚ÄėCookie Crunch‚Äô 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.
Image

I am excited to get started on some adventurers brownie recipes now ūüôā

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 d√©cor/space itself is nothing special, it actually looks like a low brow (can you say ‘low brow’!?) caf√© 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

BAKING: A FABULOUS flowerpot cake (trial run)

SO, being the *amazing* daughter I am, I decided I wanted to make my mum a really fancy cake for mother‚Äôs day. This was the first 3D cake I have ever made and the first cake I have ever used fondant icing with…so it was a pretty big challenge.

I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy step by step but instead, I’m going to highlight a few fundamental errors I made (hurrah!)…

1. I stupidly (or really cleverly?) chose a ‚Äėrich chocolate cake mix‚Äô which was REALLY tasty but at the same time¬†so so¬†rich ‚Äď like make-your-face-sweat rich.

2. The was so heavy…the density of the cake was unbelievable and it was literally like a brick making it difficult to move around/eat.

3. I got over excited and crumb coated it before I should have. In hindsight I should have turned it upside down (in a bowl) and crumb coated it so I could then put the fondant icing on properly. Because I did not do that, I had to kind of drape the fondant around the edge, leaving it all wrinkly and gathered and stuff. Definitely not a professional look.

4. I didn’t have enough fondant icing РI thought 250g would be enough, but it was not. Too thin = very wrinkly.

See below for a clever little photo montage of each stage…

Cake montage

After I had assembled my cake, I realised I had ¬†I ran out of icing sugar (SO ANNOYING WHEN THIS HAPPENS) so¬†my cream cheese frosting was slightly runnier than it should have been ‚Äď well ¬†I think that‚Äôs why it was runny.

Also N.B. cake and fridges don’t really go well together (cue mega crumbles), so I won’t be using a cream cheese frosting again as I like to keep this in the fridge, and with it being such a MASSIVE cake it’s hard to eat in one day.

Apart from all of the abouve‚ĶI was VERY pleased/proud for my first attempt at a ‚Äėproper‚Äô cake.

Flower pot final

I am going to re-make this cake this weekend but instead will make a madeira cake and a fresh strawberry buttercream. Should be much lighter and yummier!

I am happy to share my recipes if anyone wants them ūüôā

THE BEST CHINESE FOOD IN THE WORLD at My Old Place, Liverpool Street, London

I think it’s fair to say that My Old Place in Liverpool Street is THE BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT IN THE WORLDDishes
WHEN:
I last went Friday 28th but have been here over 10 times in the past 2.5 years
WHERE: 88-90 Middlesex St, London E1 7EZ // 020 7247 2200
WHY: Why what? Why is it the best Chinese restaurant in the world? You should go for yourself and find out why.

I¬†cannot explain (or put into a blog post) the happiness I get¬†when I am at this restaurant. I have been to this place over 10 times and never have I been disappointed (apart from the time I ordered the scallops – don’t ever do that)

The menu is crazy, its a small NOVEL and has so many dishes that couldn’t be more un-westernised – your local take-away’s favourites will either not be in¬†here or they will be written completely differently.

It’s probably easiest if I quickly run¬†through the best dishes I’ve had/can remember…

Dry fried sweet & sour porkIn my local take-away this is called “sweet & sour pork Hong Kong style”
I’m not sure I can say anything to do this dish justice. It is sweet, sticky, delicious, well cooked, not too heavy, a great amount of pork.¬†More than 4 of¬†you eating and you will probably need 2¬†portions!

Green beans with minced lamb and garlic
Small green beans covered in garlic and yep, you guessed it, minced lamb (and a bit of chili). The beans are so perfectly cooked and the garlic is not bitter/over powering at all. This is a truly delicious dish. Again Рmore than 4 of you eating and you will probably need 2 portions!  You can see the marvellous little eating utensils you get alongside the green beans below..

Plate and beans

Sizzling beef filet in black pepper sauce
Beautiful small pieces of beef (not a beef filet as you would imagine) in a lovely black pepper sauce where the black pepper does not over power. Great amount of veg also.

Prawn fried noodles (they also do chicken and other meats)
Just your standard egg noodles – nothing too exciting but tasty and a great dish to accompany the more dominant flavours. All of the rice’s are great also!

Lamb skewers
These are the Chef’s speciality apparently – I can never seem to find them on the menu but if you¬†ask for them then¬†they usually know what you mean! They do run out¬†of them a lot¬†so be warned they may not¬†be available when you go

Sizzling beef, green beans, fried boodles & dry fried pork and some happy thumbs up

Sizzling beef, green beans, fried noodles & dry fried pork and some happy thumbs up

The staff are extremely rude here, by far the rudest I have ever dealt with (they even hung up on me when I tried making a booking last time) but¬†don’t¬†let this put you off. The food is too good to worry about what is going on around you!

It is also very, very cheap. 4 dishes and a rice along with a bottle of house wine will cost you about¬†¬£15 each and you will be truly full up (the I-can’t-physically-move type¬†of full up)

Also – they won’t take bookings under 4 people and there normally a small queue. But who doesn’t love to queue for food? ; )

SOME GREAT BURGERS at Greedy Cow, Mile End, London

Man I love burgers, like really, really love burgers. So when I found out there was a great burger place 3 MINUTES walk from my new flat I was overwhelmed with excitement.

WHEN: Monday 3rd March 2014
WHERE: Greedy Cow, 2 Grove Rd, London E3 5AX
WHY: Mr A wanted to treat me to a meal and I was HUNGRY

The décor is stylish and nice, nothing amazing but not bad so just nice really. The staff were great, very attentive as soon as we walked in Рthey were please we had booked, it got very busy when we were in there.

The menu is one big piece of trendy A3 paper. Lots to take in but clearly set out. It seems that all of the burgers come with only one or two toppings, extras are available but these are all priced at £1.65 (£1.65 for guacamole!?!) Annoyingly I think they need to re-visit that pricing structure.

We chose the Prawns & Sweet Chili Sauce and Olives to start. Both were nice, again nothing amazing – the prawns seemed a little out of place in hindsight and didn’t really suit the vibe/taste of the menu. Also the olives were supposed to come ‘with mushrooms’ but alas there were no mushrooms to be seen (MAYBE THERE WASN’T MUSH-ROOM IN THE POT? EH EH)

Olives and Menu

I ordered the Italian burger after about 5 minutes of discussing with the waiter if Beef and Parma Ham actually work together. Mr A was a little more adventurous and went for the Camel burger.

My burger arrived pretty well dressed but Mr A’s actually had nothing apart from some mayo – we were told any sauces would have “ruined the taste of the camel”. It looks like just a plain beef burger so I won’t be uploading a photo of that…but you can see my beautiful Italian burger below!
Italian Burger

We got some chips also that were…okay. I like it when they leave the skin on and they didn’t here which was a real shame (being rustic is trendy you know!)

For dessert we got some BANOFFEE PIE and it was so very tasty.

Dessert

I did really enjoy my meal here but it didn’t blow my socks off…it’s got a long way to go to be up there with Meat & Liquor and Patty & Bun but Greedy Cow is amazing for where it is and the value (the meal around ¬£45 which is great for two people with booze!)

Check the website out HERE

BAKING: Sugar free & dairy free BANANANA Muffins

SF DF BM

In light of my lent commitments and house FAJITA night we were having, I decided to make some dairy free & sugar free banana muffins. 

After hunting around I settled on a great recipe from HERE –¬†in Rachel Allen’s Cake Diaries

Ingredients & Method (in case you can’t be bothered to follow the link..)

  • 125 g¬†plain flour
  • 2 tsp¬†baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp¬†salt
  • 175 g¬†wholemeal flour
  • 3-4 very ripe¬†bananas, mashed
  • 2¬†eggs
  • 75 ml¬†sunflower oil
  • 150 g¬†honey
  • 175 g¬†almonds, skin still on, chopped

    Method:
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases.
    2. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl with the baking powder and salt. Mix in the wholemeal flour. Place the bananas in a separate bowl with the eggs, sunflower oil and honey and whisk to combine. Tip into the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, adding the almonds just as the mixture is coming together.
    3. Divide the batter between the muffin cases so that they are about three-quarters full. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden on top and springy to the touch.
    4. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes, then take them from the tray and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.  

I followed the recipie as per the instructions but added 100g of chopped walnuts and 70g of saltanas instead of the 175g of almonds (I don’t think they would go to well with banana?) I also used 4 bananas (recipe says 3 or 4). I weighed out 90g of batter per muffin case.

I cooked said muffins at 160 degrees Celsius (in a fan assisted oven) for 25 minutes and then turned it down to 150 Celsius for a further 3 minutes.

Notes: Make sure the bananas you use are so ripe they almost are off, you get the sweetest and richest banana flavour that way. 

The muffins turned out so well in the end… they were moist, sweet, spongy and more.
There was only 3 of the 12 left by the morning (well, there is 5 of us in the house!)
I was so pleased! And they are (processed) sugar free and dairy free. What more could you want! 
ban2ban1

LENT 2014

I thought it would be appropriate to share with you that for Lent ’14 I am going to give up….PROCESSED SUGAR.

Lent 2014

I am not religious or anything but my extreme lack of will power enjoys¬†having a goal, something to work towards, so I like to adopt lent to try and¬†better myself. I did this with my house mate two years ago and it was really, really, really tough. I honestly couldn’t get out of bed some days and I was in the worst moods…it’s scary what fake sugar can do to you. Housemate,¬†however, didn’t slip back down the slippery sugar slope – and I did. Hence the reason I am here again to try and kick the habit.

Also, I will be giving up dairy – just cow stuff. I’m sure I have an intolerance so hopefully this will help me get to the bottom of it!

N.B. Processed sugar – I mean anything like crisps, chocolate, cake. I am allowing myself natural sugars (fruit & honey) and am also allowing myself 1 x item of a bake I do – for quality control reasons ; )

A Beautifully Brilliant Baking Class

Well, Cupcake Course…The “Original Cupcake Course” by The Gourmet Cupcake Company to be precise!¬†

WHEN: Saturday 1st March 
WHERE: The Gourmet Cupcake Company, Chelmsford, Essex (The bakery is a handy 5 min walk from the train station/town centre)
WHY: Because I wanted to learn some TOP SECRET industry tips for baking cupcakes & decoration 
The Gourment Cupcake Company

The day started out with a short intro into what we would be learning…
– How to bake our own 12 perfect cupcakes (6 ‘low’ for fondant and 6 ‘high’ for butter cream icing)
– How to create beautiful florist/flower paste decorations
– How to ice our cupcakes with fondant icing and butter cream icing

We measured out the ingredients in two groups and weighed out the batter into our cases (by this point I had already learnt about 4 things I shamefully didn’t already know) The cupcakes were *carefully* placed into the oven and we then dived into the wonderful world of florist paste.

We created 12 lovely little decorations each. The decorations were not the style I would have personally chosen (I actually hate anything decorative to do with butterflies) but still looked pretty.

After lunch we cracked on with the fondant and butter cream icing. We were offered a large selection of food colouring’s and flavours for our butter cream although I annoyingly ended up with a weird purple/grey colour after panicking¬†

All in all I had a GREAT day and ended up with some bloody lovely cupcakes! We were sent home with recipe cards we had been encouraged to make notes on throughout the day, which was great.

Free tea & coffee was on offer all day and we were treated to an amazing cake pop in the afternoon that was made in house (Free coffee & cake pop = winning!)

If you would like to know any of this top secret information, just drop me a note – I’ll be happy to share : ) ¬†

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos throughout the day but the website has lots of photos (and info!) on of the different classes they offer…¬†http://www.gourmetcupcakes.co.uk/courses/the-original-cupcake-course/

Below you can see my achievements – HORRAH!

FONDANTButter 2