Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Hotel Chocolat Autumn Sleekster Review & Giveaway

A new season is upon us, Autumn which its falling leaves and crispy morning air, my taste buds adjust to my second favourite season. Gone are the Summer flavours to be replaced with earthy Autumn flavours. When I think of Autumn, I think of apple crumble, banana bread and lots of nuts. Hotel Chocolat are always innovators with introducing seasonal flavours into their chocolates.
In the Autumn Sleekster (£22.50) there are wonderful flavours such as Florentine Isabelle, Walnut Praline and Salted Caramel Pecan Pie and so many more.
As the luxury box arrived, I quickly unopened and studied the enclosed menu inside. What should I start with, first. I adore anything with nuts so I tried The Acorn, signature hazelnut chocolate which is wonderful. I also really liked the apple crumble chocolates, I didn't think the combination quite work, apple crumble flavoured chocolates but I had a sudden sends of nostalgia after eating it. My sister and I have devoured the remaining chocolates, getting #chocolatewasted, but it is the season for a little indulgence isn't it?

The lovely people at Hotel Chocolat are giving one lucky reader The Autumn Sleekster. To be in with a chance to win this, follow the below instructions.

  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget.
  • Join my blog and leave a comment (click on the left hand of the right side of the website using Google Friend Connector) this is an ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENT.
  • For additional entries subscribe to my Youtube channel, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
  • All entries will be checked and verified
  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.
  • The compeition will run from 18.10.16 - 13.11.16
  • Winners will need to respond in 5 working days of being contacted.
  • The competition is open to UK residents, aged 18 or over. 
  • Hotel Chocolat is responsible for posting the chocolates.
  • Please feel free to share the giveaway.

Disclaimer: the Autumn Sleekster was gifted by Hotel Chocolat. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Plantain, Okra & Chorizo Hash

As the Autumn nights drawer, I fancy hearty and lavish weekend breakfast. The inclusion of plantain is beautiful combined by the crunchy and refreshing okra and the bold flavours of the chorizo. The oven does the majority of the work here and you are awarded with a scrumptious brunch. A great way to start the weekend.

Plantain, Okra and Chorizo Hash
Serves 3
2 tbsp olive oil
150 g okra, tops and ends removed and sliced.
1.5 yellow plantain, skin peeled
1 yellow pepper, stems removed and sliced into strips
2 spring onions, sliced
125g chorizo, diced
1 tbsp fresh sage
3 duck eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh chives for topping

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Drizzle a little oil in an oven proof dish and bake the plantain in the oven for 15 minutes. They should be soft when pressed down with your fingertip and almost springy. Once baked remove and thinly slice.
Pour the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the okra for around 5 minutes. Add the plantain, pepper, spring onions, chorizo, sage, salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crack the duck eggs in three corners of pan. Place the frying pan in the oven and bake for around 10 minutes or until the eggs are set. Remove from the oven and scatter with chives.

Serve on its own or with buttered crusty bread.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Palestine on a Plate Review

I've been following the author of Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalla on Instagram for some time. Joudie's Instagram account showcases a range of mouthwatering and colourful food photos, alongside photos of her beloved Palestine. I liked Joudie's own appreciation of Palestinian cuisine when moving to Paris which she states intensified her love of Palestinian and Arabic cuisine. 
There's a lovely introduction to the country of Palestine and although the country is considered unsafe to visit, we can sample authentic dishes via this cookbook. As my appetite for Middle Eastern cuisine continues, this book is a welcome addition to my growing collection. This book stands out from my many Middle Eastern cookery books due to the large number of vibrant vegetarian dishes. As you would expect from Middle Eastern cookbook all the dishes are colourful and vibrant, I want to dive straight in.

All the traditional Middle Eastern ingredients are introduced to the reader (and the history of the ingredient) alongside spices (Ras el Hanout, Dukkah and Za'atar) and blends such as the Baharat Spice Mix. Key grains, fruits and nuts are also introduced. The majority of recipes are easily accessible and ingredients can be purchased at your local supermarket. With everything else there is Sous Chef.

I like the tone of this cookery book with mentions of her family (mother and siblings) as it gives a personal touch. So far I've made the Halibut Baked Over Spicy Potaotes and the Oven-baked Okra with Olive Oil, Tomatoes & Onions. Both dishes were easy to make and went down well with my family.

Any cookery book which has a chapter on breakfast is a winner for me. The chapters in this book are the following:
  • Good Morning Starters, recipes to try include Ijeh (Fluffy Egg Fritters with Tomato Salsa) Kibdet Il Djaj, Za'atar Scones and Figs with Labneh & Honey on Toasted Bread. 
  • Hearty Pulses and Grains, stand out recipes to try include: Shorabet Freekeh (Freekeh Soup), Rummaniyeh, (Lentil & Aubergine Stew with Pomegranate Molasses), Cumin Lentils & Rice with Caramelized Onions, Maftoul (Palestinian Pearl Cous Cous with Caraway, Chicken, Onions & Parsley), M'sabaha (Warm Chunky Chickpeas with Cumin, Garlic & Yogurt) and Kubbet Batata Helweh (Sweet Potato Kubberh with Green Herby Salsa).
  • Vibrant Vegetarian: Recipes to try include: Bamyeh Bil Zeit (Oven-baked Okra with Olive Oil, Tomatoes & Onions), Batata Harra (Spicy Coriander & Garlic Potatoes) and Teta Huda's Mussaka's (Fried & Baked Spicy Aubergine & Tomato Stew).
  • The Mighty Lamb & Chicken: Standout recipes include Makloubeh (Upside down Spiced Rice with Lamb & Aubergines), Shakriyeh (Lamb shanks Cooked in Yogurt Sauce with Burgul & Vermicelli), Jawaneh (Chilli Chicken Wings) and Mashbous - Auntie Noha's Recipe (Dried limes & Spiced Chicken Rice Platter). 
  • Fragrant Fish:  Recipes to try include: Saffron & Lemon Cod with Jewelled Herby Rice, Samak Meshwi Wa Batata Harra (Halibut Baked Over Spicy Potatoes), Sultan, Ibrahim, Makli Wa, Salatet Adas (Fried Red Mullet with Preserved Lemon & Lentil Salad) and Sumac & Za'atar Roasted Monkfish.
  • Sweet Tooth: Standout recipes include: Yaffa Orange Cheesecake, Halaweet Il Jibin (Sticky Sweet Cheese & Cream), Tahini Brownies and Banana & Medjool Date Cake.

The recipe that I would like to share with you is the Bamyeh Bi Zeit (Oven- Baked Okra with Olive Oil, Tomatoes & Onions.
Serves 4 -6
700g okra tops cut off
4 onions cut into half and sliced
4 tomatoes cut in half and sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced lengthways
1 tablespoon tomato puree
juice of 6 lemons
150ml olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 green chill, chopped
2 tablespoon ground coriander
2-3 tablespoon sea salt
500ml water
a bunch of fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 190C fan (210C/415F/Gas mark 6-7)
Place all the ingredients, except the water and half the fresh coriander, in a baking tray and mix together. Cover with the water and then core the whole tray with foil.
Bake for about 60-75 minutes until you have a rich stew consistency. The liquid in the tray will become thick and sticky with the tomatoes and lemon, so keep checking the consistency during the cooking time. If at any time during the early stages of cooking the water has evaporated too much simply add more.
Serve with fresh coriander scattered over the top and some bread, if liked.

The lovely people at Jacqui Small Publishing are offering one lucky reader a copy of this book.

To be in with a chance of winning, follow the below instructions.
  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget.
  • Join my blog and leave a comment (click on the left hand of the right side of the website using Google Friend Connector) this is an ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENT. 
  • For additional entries subscribe to my Youtube channel, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus
  • All entries will be checked and verified.
  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.
  • The competition will run from 12.10.16 - 13.11.16 .
  • Winners will need to respond in 5 working days of being contacted.
  • The competition is open to UK residents, aged 18 or over.
  • Jacqui Small will send out a copy of the cookery book to the winner.
  • Please feel free to share the giveaway. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 7 October 2016

Seasoned Creative Baking Class Review

I recently received an invite from the lovely people over at Seasoned Cookery School to visit the school and participate in one of the cookery classes. I instantly jumped at attending a class as I love learning new cuisines and techniques. Having attended a few cookery classes from different schools already, I had high standards. Scouring through the website, there is a comprehensive range of classes such as Italian, Chocolate Courses, The Best of British Meat, Middle Eastern Cookery Class and Fish and Seafood Class. I chose to attend Creative Baking Class by Season 1 Great British Bake Off Ruth Clemens. During this class, I learnt to master three essential bakes: bread, cakes & pastry. I'm more of a cook than a baker and when I do bake, I tend to stick to what I know: chocolate cakes, quiches and well, that's about it. I was more than excited to expand my somewhat receptive baking repertoire with three new bakes: 6 Strand Plaited Loaf, Raspberry and Rose Batternberg and Leek Potato and Cheese Mini Pasties.

I was a little nervous attending in a baking class with someone who was from the Bake Off and worried that everyone participating in the class would be like professional bakers. I need not to worry, Ruth was lovely and all the participants were very friendly too.

Bake to the baking, the class started off with the classic Battenberg cake but with a raspberry and rose twist. Now, I have eaten many a slice of a batternberg cake but I haven't actually baked one myself. Why? I had an overwhelming fear that the cake is too tricky, plus I never had a special tin. Thankfully, Ruth showed attendees a trick on how to separate the the cake batter in a normal square tin. It basically involved folding baking parchment a few ways to create a wall in the tin. The batter was easy to make, as it is a sponge batter. The flavour from the rose extract was quite strong, a tad to strong for my liking (I've never baked with rose) but other attendees appeared to really enjoy this exotic twist. I found the assembling of the cake, to make the iconic chequered pattern to be quite difficult. Not because the method was difficult, but after we made the cakes, we moved onto the other bakes and returned to assemble later on in the day. This meant that my brain was slightly frazzled, so by the time I layered up, I layered the cakes wrong meaning their was two vanilla squares on the top and two rose squares on the bottom. However, I must say that although I made a slight error, this was completely forgotten about by me and my family once I had a slice. The sponge was super light, the lightest I've made and I loved the raspberry.

After we baked the batternberg we mastered the notoriously difficult 6 plaited loaf. I actually made a 3 plaited loaf before, it was a disaster, so I was hoping that this would be much better. With this bake, you need to have patience and a lot of time too but once you get the hang of it, it's quiet easy to do. This loaf needs to be left to prove on two occasions. There was a handy technique that Ruth shared to make it easier to plait the loaf. I will definitely be making this again.

Most importantly, Ruth was there to answer the attendees including mine many questions and was also able to provide a helping hand when needed. I now can upgrade my pastry and bread game and implement these techniques at home.

The leek and potato pies was another wonderful bake, perfect to serve  as a party appetiser or to make one large pie. After we made the pies, we began to plait the loaf. Although it was recommended that we work in pairs, as I wanted to recreate this at home, I attempted to make this on my own. I got slightly confused and thankfully Ruth was on hand to guide me through the tricky plait.

As the course ended, we were able to ask any additional questions and take back our recipe cards.

The Creative Baking class costs £175 and is a full day (10am – 4pm).

Disclaimer: I attended as a guest of Seasoned Cookery School.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Ludlow Food Festival

I recently visited the original food festival, Ludlow Food Festival almost two weeks ago. The festival, which is about one hour away from where I live and set in the historic and picturesque town of Ludlow has been on my radar for some time. I've visited Ludlow once before, a few years ago and probably spent less than a couple of hours there so I was almost a newbie to this town and the food festival. Ludlow Food Festival is based in stunning Ludlow castle, the approach to the food festival is very food oriented, you walk past the local food market selling a range of beautiful seasonal English produce.

The various stall holders were underneath tents which was brilliant for someone like me who doesn't like the rain and was worried about the weather. I spent time admitting the 100-150 exhibitors who were all offering local artisan producers. There were a steady hand of samples to try, but what I really liked is the stalls that I visited is that all the stall holders took time to explain their product, the techniques used and the passion really shined through from each stall holder.

From scrumptious breads, Mediterranean olives, blissful brownies, oils, flavoursome drinks and gorgeous cakes, there really is something for every food lover. I also noticed that a lot of the items were on sale was significantly cheaper compared to other food festivals that I have attended.

There were a hosts of kitchen demonstrations and happenings going on. Graeme Kidd Stage which offered top chefs as did Wots Cooking Stage which offered demonstrations from head chefs, Masterchefs and food writers. Also, there were lots of interesting food talks, masterchefs,  slow food taste workshops and pop up restaurants. I wish I had planned my day better and took full advantage of the different talks that were happening as with most things food related, you can always learn more about a particular cuisine or ingredients for example.

I was only able to watch Andrew Birch, head chef at Fishermore Hall, Ludlow. Andrew showcased how to cook a lovely hake with chorizo, wiltered spinach.

One thing that I did notice at Ludlow Food Festival, was there a number of families attending, much more than other food festivals. With a dedicated children's corner this food festival is very child friendly (I observed some face painting which looked fun).

Ludlow Food Festival tickets cost £8.50 per adult, £2 per child and £20 for a family (2 adults and up to 4 children).

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary tickets to Ludlow Food Festival.
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