Sunday, 15 September 2013

Chester Zoo

I had a lovely trip to Chester Zoo with the family a few weeks ago and I just thought i'd share some snaps!

We had a yummy picnic on the grass with figs, sandwiches and doughnuts!

The elephants and penguins are by far my favourite! I just love the penguins' little waddle.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Carluccios Raspberry Meringue

Carluccio's is one of my favourite chain restaurants. The decor is beautiful and the food full of fresh italian flavours and lots of mozzarella! I also love the giant pile of raspberry and chocolate meringues they have in their window display, and bought one for dessert!
Here we shared one giant one between myself, my mum and Scott!
1 large meringue ( or little ones, broken ones, whatever you like!)
red-current jam, or a jam of your choice
Pouring cream
fresh fruit/berries

Crumble your meringue into three bowls.
Drizzle with the cream. Spoon a few teaspoons of jam into each bowl, and finally sprinkle over a few berries. I used raspberries and blueberries as they were what we had in the fridge! Raspberry's are my favourite fruit so we usually have a punnet of them to hanging round.

The meringues were crisp on the outside and soft and sticky in the middle! Just as they should be. The only problem was they didn't really taste like raspberry which was a little disappointing!
It's sometimes hard to think of desserts to make when you haven't got much in, but anything meringue based is always a winner,  so I always try to keep a packet in the cupboard for when you need that sweet treat :)

Chocolate Cupcakes

I love cake. I love sweet things. Ok I love food in general but sweet things in particular :) As you can see most of the recipes I post tend to be of the sweet variety! I don't usually bake cakes though, but yesterday I had a day off work and decided to try my hand at some cupcakes as a little afternoon treat :)
They turned out reasonably well, especially the violet buttercream icing! Heres what I did:
100g Plain flour
20g Cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baing powder
pinch of salt
40g unsaltd butter
120ml milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste

Mix together the dry ingredients and butter using a electric hand whisk. In a separate jug, mix the egg milk and vanilla paste. Gently combine with the dry ingredients and beat until well combined.
Spoon into cupcake cases (this makes 12 cakes) and bake on gas mark 3 for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean when inserted into the cake.

Buttercream icing:
75g soft butter
125g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
optional : food colouring

Beat the icing sugar and soft butter until well combined, You may need a tiny drop of milk to help blend together. Add the vanilla paste and food colouring. I used a ultra violet purple food colouring gel from Tesco. It was quite weak so I needed to use quite a bit even to get a faint purple tone.
Spread over the cakes once they are cooled. I topped mine with fresh blackberries and silver edible balls. :)
Enjoy :)

Rabbit Pana cotta

I made this lovely creamy dessert the other day using a plastic rabbit shaped jelly mould. The mould almost worked, all but the ear in fact! But the taste definitely made up for the shaping!
Panna Cotta
3 leaves Gelatin
250ml milk
250ml Double Cream
1 large teaspoon vanilla paste
50g sugar

Gently heat the milk cream and sugar in a pan, continuously stirring. Meanwhile soak your gelatine leaves in cold water in a separate bowl. Add the vanilla paste to the cream. Take the warm cream off the heat and add the gelatine leaves. Stir until they have dissolved into the cream.
Lightly grease the pudding mould with sunflower oil (I didn't do this step and regretted it as the mould didn't work as well as i'd hoped - so I recommend you do do it!) Pour the mixture into the mould and refrigerate for at least 2 hours!

I made a little blueberry and raspberry coulis to drizzle over the rabbit! 
Gently simmer the fruit with some sugar until most of the fruit has broken down, but there are still fruit with shape. Leave to cool and drizzle over the rabbit!
There wasn't much left at the end!

Homegrown Mangetout

The Mangetout is ready!!!
I've just finished picking the first proper crop from the mangetout plants in our garden.
They are deliciously sweet and it feels so good to know Scott and I have grown them from scratch!
I like mine heated in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper! This really brings the sweet flavour out, but retains the lovely crunch!

As always, the animals have to sneak their way onto the blog :)
I love the swirly vines that the peas use to cling on with. They curl themselves around the bamboo support and this helps the plant grow healthily upright and stay strong.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Picking berries

The other day I went fruit picking (again) with Scott. Scott's Nana Hazel, was kind enough to let us raid her supply of gooseberries and red currents from her garden. It feels so good being able to pick your own fruit, there is definitely something very caveman like about searching for your own food and then eating it!
We used the gooseberries to make a yummy crumble! And the red-currents we ate straight up, and I used the leftovers to make some other desserts look pretty by laying them over the top!
This is Ollie, Hazel's lovely doggy. He was 'helping' us pick the fruits, and actually had a nibble on a few of the red-currents!
The colour of the gooseberries was so rich compared to the pale green variety you get in the supermarket. They were already nice and sweet so didn't need as much sugar adding to them as the store bought kind do.
I made a gooseberry crumble, and then a few days later used the left over gooseberries with some frozen berries from Lidl and made another one! Crumble is definitely a food obsession at the moment, I just cant get enough of it!

Greek salad with your feta?

I can not tell you how much I love a good Greek salad. It's something I could happily eat until it came out of my ears... well you know what I mean.
Whenever i'm on holiday I eat grotesque amounts of the stuff and it has become a real firm favourite of the family!
In Greece you generally are served with a slab of feta on top of your salad, whereas in Britain the feta is usually crumbed on top or cut into cubes! Here I crumbled ours but that would be up to you!
Feta cheese
black olives
juicy tomatoes
red or white onions
red or green peppers
Extra Virgin Olive oil
optional: vinegar
salt & pepper

Chop the vegetables until they are roughly the same size. I don't use many onions as I think they can be overpowering, but thats up to you!
Crumble the feta over the top of the salad, and drizzle the extra Virgin olive oil over the top. Top with a little dried herbs (oregano) and some vinegar if you like!
It's healthy, delicious and reminds me of the lovely Greek tavernas I've visited on previous holidays! The perfect dish for all occasions :)

Garlic, basil and mozzarella bread

A quick and easy thing to have under your belt is homemade garlic bread! It's something I don't think i'd really buy again now unless I really had to, as this recipe is so easy and tasty. It always impresses people when you say you've made it yourself (even though its not fully homemade) and adds a little something special to an everyday meal.
1 loaf crusty bread e.g ciabatta, french stick
125g butter
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
a few leaves of basil or parsley

Slice your loaf the way garlic bread looks, with even slices going about 3/4 of the way deep. Or slice the ciabatta in half length ways for extra easy-ness!
Melt the butter in a bowl until soft but not melted. Add the crushed garlic cloves. Chop the herb of your choice and add to the butter mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the gaps of the garlic bread or spread along both halves.
You could now top with a little parmesan or mozzarella to make cheesey garlic bread!
Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes on high, or until the bread has lightly coloured, the butter melted, and the cheese golden (if your using cheese).

Friday, 9 August 2013

Homemade Lemonade

Homemade lemonade is a real treat and so fresh and delicious compared to bought cordial. It's really simple to make and isn't too costly!
Scott made a delicious batch recently so we've been enjoying the benefits while the weathers been good (even though it looks likes its changed now!!)
Heres what Scott did:
500ml lemon juice
The zest of 3 lemons grated finely
2kg castor sugar
1 litre water
2 tbsp citric acid

Dissolve the sugar with the litre of water and the lemon juice. Simmer gently for for a few minutes. Add the lemon zest and the citric acid. The citric acid makes the lemon flavour 'pop' and I think it also helps preserve the cordial for longer, though i'm not 100% sure about that. If you haven't got any its not  too dramatic to leave it out! It still tastes amazing :)
Simmer for another minute or so, then strain the mixture through a sieve or a piece of muslin is you have some.
Place in a sterilised bottle and once opened, keep in the fridge! 
The drink is best served 2/3 cordial:water.
We tired another version with some mint from the garden as we have too much growing, but it didn't work out as well as the pure lemon!

I had mine served with ice and a slice of lemon, and a good read of Katy Perry's interview in Elle magazine this month :)