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’s 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 ‘rich chocolate cake mix’ which was REALLY tasty but at the same time so so rich – 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 – I 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 – well  I think that’s 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…I was VERY pleased/proud for my first attempt at a ‘proper’ 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 🙂

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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 – more 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 – they 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

(Lebanese) Meza, Tooting Bec, London

There’s no better place to award my first review to than to the truly amazing Meza in Tooting Bec.

A quick background: Lebanese tapas as I like to call it. Tucked away on Trinity street in Tooting Bec SW17, Meza can only seat 17 people at any one time and the kitchen is basically part of the restaurant (with 3 out of the 17 seats being on a bar that looks into it)
Bookings are hard to get and they have 2 sittings every evening, one at 7pm and one at 9pm.

The food is just unreal, you can tell that the chefs are well experienced and take great care in their work – which can be hard to come by with Lebanese food!
Selection of food

I have visited Meza near on 10 times now so it is probably easiest if I give you a run down of my favourite dishes (and if you have any sense you will be sure to order these when you visit)..

Hummus Awarma (hummus with walnuts and diced lamb)
The walnuts and the small amount of diced lamb contrast the hummus perfectly. I find hummus can be a little sickly/rich sometimes (especially if ‘home made’) but the addition of the walnuts and diced lamb balances the flavours perfectly – great for a starter…and a main…and to pick at when your done actually.

Grilled Kallaj (melted Haloumi in flatbread)
I’d suggest 1 serving for 2 people as this is so delicious (me and my friends always get 1 per person but that could be seen as greedy). Absolutely no squeak on the Haloumi and just the perfect amount of melting – the bread is so light you can eat bowl after bowl and still be ready to conquer your main! (Honestly, this could be my most favourite thing in the world)
Falafel

Falafel
A falafel made properly! Suitable for gluten free-ers, these falafels are made pan fried crushed pine nuts and no flour. Very delicious and give you a real taste for the authentic middle eastern flavours.

Mixed Grill
This is perfect when you can’t choose which meat to go for. Particularly good dish if there is a party of 2, 3 or 4. It covers all of the best meats and the portion size is great.

Soujouk (Garlic and chilli lamb sausages)
Beautiful ‘mini’ sausages with the right kick, they compliment the otherwise non-spicy foods that I find take over this menu (I’m not complaining though, I annoyingly can’t ever tolerate the mild at Nando’s. I am working on this though!)

The service can be a little slow at times but the staff are always so cheery and happy to assist. The staff here are always honest and tell you if you have ordered too much food – that is one thing I love in a restaurant and can be hard to come across.

Both the white and the red wine are house Lebanese wines. The red is so so tasty (better than the white I feel and I am normally a white drinker) One bottle will cost you £15 think it may be £17 now though?), a
price that will make any hangover a little more bareable. If you prefer to drink by the glass the prices are still great. Also,  they don’t tend to measure out their glasses – meaning you always get a little more than expected! (N.B. Pouring wine into a metal measuring thing before it goes into your glass is one of my pet hates – bluegh!)

When combining the cost, service, quality of food, quality of wine and authenticity of the menu/venue, I think I can go as far as saying this is my favourite restaurant. (!!!) I am never, ever(!) disappointment and my bank balance is always happy enough after a visit there!

See, there we are, taking up half of the restaurant

See, there we are, taking up half of the restaurant

WHERE: 34 Trinity Road, London, SW17 7RE
WHEN: I last went about a year ago *sad face*…I lived in Tooting for almost 2 years and went around once a month. I am hoping to visit soon (after my move east!) and will update with new points when this happens..

A handy link to the menu online…http://www.zomato.com/london/meza-tooting/menu