Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Coconut and lime chocolate brownie meringue cake topped with honeycomb.

As many in the UK are aware the popular baking show, The Great British Bake Off has finished it's fourth series and Francis from Leicestershire was crowned the worthy winner. The Great British Bake Off has churned out at least 6 books, the first two were on a yearly basis and then there have been other GBBO baking books. There is even a Great British Bake Off Winter Kitchen scheduled to be released 21st November 2013, I however only have the first two books from the franchise and only baked a handful of the recipes.
The recipe that I am sharing is taken from the first GBBO baking book and was submitted by Miranda Browne who became known for her decorative biscuits. Prior to this recipe I never made a meringue before but thought it would be a good cake for me to bake and as it contained chocolate I was immediately sold. My version of this cake differs somewhat to the original recipe, as I added coconut and lime to the brownie mixture and instead of using a raspberry cream filling I made a lime buttercream filling. That's what I love about baking is that you can adapt to suit your own taste buds. Although the cake was simple enough I did struggle to release the topping of the cake without breaking the meringue, but besides that it is a lovely freshing, gooey, crunchy, chocolate cake :-)
Here is how my coconut and lime chocolate brownie cake turned out:
Coconut and lime brownie meringue cake.

Coconut and lime brownie meringue cake.
Coconut and lime brownie meringue cake.
I first started by melting the chocolate, not in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water but in the microwave in 30 seconds blasts, with a quick stir.
Chocolate pieces.
Chocolate melted
I then whisked the butter and icing sugar together.
Butter and icing sugar.
I also added the eggs and the flour and stirred until everything was combined.
Flour added to butter and icing sugar.

I in cooperated the chocolate at this stage alongside the lime and coconut.
Chocolate added.
Lime added.
I placed the mixture into two sandwich tins and baked for around 8 minutes. Meanwhile I got on with the meringue. I whisked 4 egg whites until frothy and added the sugar. Once almost meringue style (I've never made meringue before) and removed from the brownies from the oven and added the meringue mixture.
Not a stiff meringue mixture!

Meringue added to the brownie.

Here is the link to the original chocolate brownie meringue cake. I have made amendments to in-cooperate coconut and lime.
For the coconut and lime, add one grated zest of 1 lime and 50g coconut to the mixture after the chocolate has been added to the mixture.
For the coconut and lime buttercream follow the link here.

xxx
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Friday, 25 October 2013

Cooked up corned beef, fried dumplings and fried plantains.

I love dishes that are not only flavoursome but also reminds me of my carefree childhood years. Corn beef is a well known English product, but it is eaten in many Caribbean kitchens, which I can only think of is to do with many of the Caribbean islands were former colonies for England. I don't even know what traditional corn beef meals are eaten with but I'm so used to eating corn beef with fried dumplings and fried plantain, it's become comfort food.
The corn beef is "cooked up" by which I mean is cooked with onions, tomatoes and sweet  peppers until the vegetables are cooked, I rarely deviate from these ingredients but have occasion tossed a couple of mushrooms in to bulk the meal. The fried dumplings are also a firm favourite of mine and the recipe can be found on the link here.
Here is how my corn beef dish turned out:

Recipe for Cooked up corn beef
Ingredients

1 can of corn beef
2 tomatoes
1 onion, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 birds eye chili, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method

1) Add the oil into a frying pan and fry the sliced onion and yellow pepper to the pan. Cook for around 5 minutes.
2) Add the corn beef (use a fork to separate the corn beef in the pan), tomatoes and chili and let this cook for around 10 minutes.
3) Serve with fried dumplings or rice.

xxx






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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Thai green pork and prawn curry

I have only discovered the delights of Far Eastern food this year, and shared my post from that region earlier this year with my low fat Thai pork curry. Now I haven't ventured far from this, as this is also a variation of the classic Thai pork curry, but this time with added prawns and mushrooms. The recipe comes from my latest cook book "Good Housekeeping 30 Minute Cook Book" which is currently on offer at WH Smith for £3.99 and is perfect for busy cooks a la moi. I quite like this version with prawns but if I were to make this again I would omit the mushrooms as the sauce was quite dark green. The curry tasted much better than the pictures.
Here is how my Thai green pork and prawn curry turned out:
Thai pork curry.

Thai pork curry

Recipe for Thai Green Curry
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 15 minutes
Ingredients
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 green chili, seeded and finely chopped
4cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 lemongrass salt, trimmed and cut into three pieces
225g brown cap or oyster mushrooms
1 tsp Thai green curry paste
300ml coconut milk
150ml chicken stock
1tbsp fish sauce
1tsp light soy sauce
350g boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces, cut into bite size pieces
350g large prawns
fresh coriander
Thai rice to serve

Method
1) Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the chili, ginger, lemongrass and mushrooms and stir fry for about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to turn golden. Add the curry paste and fry for a further minute.
2) Pour in the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and soy sauce and bring to the boil. Stir in the chicken, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
3) Add the prawns and cook for a further minute. Garnish with coriander, sprigs and serve immediately with Thai fragrant rice.

xxx
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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Havana, Varadero, Cuban Food and my Cuban holiday

I recently went on holiday abroad to the unique island of Cuba. I say unique as it is one of the few countries left in the world that have a communist regime and have a blockade which prevents trade with the America, which the locals call, bloqueo. Cuba is not renowned for its food and friends who have visited have stated that the food is bland and there was not a lot of variety. With this in mind, I was not expecting much culinary wise, even though I was staying at the 5 star Iberostar Laguna Azul hotel in Varadero. So imagine my delight after reflecting on my two week stay that I stumbled many culinary delights across during my two week all inclusive stay.
I went on a few excursions, which I will share later on in this post and was fortunate to try a variety of Cuban dishes and see many landmarks. The most impressive meal that I had whilst I was in Cuba was at Paladar Vistamar in New Havana, which was not only "good for Cuban cuisine" but, in my opinion would be a delicious and exceptional value for money meal anywhere in the world. The lobster meal with rice and black beans, vegetables and banana chips cost 20CUC which is around £15 and was tasty, tenderly cooked and delicious.
Me with delicious meal at Paladar Vistamar.

Lobster, garlic sauce, rice, black bean, banana chips.
I was making the most of enjoying fresh (and may I add cheap) lobster so when I went on a Catamaran excursion that I booked via Thomson, I ordered the  lobster meal which was accompanied with prawns and rice. For some reason this dish was bizarrely served with fish fingers which was not what I would serve alongside lobster, I can only imagine this was to do with lack of other foods that could be served in addition to the lobster. More on the excursion later on in the post.
Lobster and fish fingers.

Rice.

Whilst I was on the beach I thought I would try some coconut water, which was 5 CUC around £3.50 but I did not think this was good value for money as the coconut water was not very sweet and there wasn't a lot of it.
Coconut
As mentioned earlier I stayed at Iberostar Laguna Azul, the hotels A La Carte restaurants were good, well some of the restaurants were. At Iberostar Laguna Azul there were four A La Carte restaurants: French, Italian, Japanese and Cuban. We decided to not visit the Cuban restaurant as some of the reviews on Trip Advisor were not good, but the other three restaurants were good in terms of service, food and wine selection. The only downfall were the portion sizes were too small for my liking and some of the pairings such as lobster and french fries for a starter would not be found in the UK.  The following pictures were from the French restaurant.
Lobster starter.

Steak.

Lemon sorbet.
The Italian restaurant was also pretty good and there was calamari so I was happy!
Lovely plate

Calamari

Fish main.

Sorbet.
We also went to the Japanese restaurant and had tepynaki, in Cuba!
Rice

Ice-cream with rum

Cake with rum.
We booked a day trip via taxi to Havana which cost around £115 and was more expensive than the group coach trip, which cost around £50 per person, but I felt this was good value for money as we could pick and chose the sights we wanted to visit at our own pace. Our taxi driver first took us to Bacunayagua bridge which is the highest bridge in Cuba and offers spectacular views of the Cuban countryside. There was a live band playing traditional Cuban music alongside a bar offering Caribbean cocktails. The views are simply breathtaking, and alongside the salsa music makes this holiday experience, surreal, something out of a film.
Bacunayagua bridge

Bacunayagua bridge bar.

Our next stop was El Morro which is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay which offers stunning views of Havana city and also some interesting old style guns that were used to deter intruders from other Islands/countries. The entrance fee was around £2 from what I can remember, there was also a mini market and people selling cd's if you chose to bring back the Latin beats of Cuba back home with you.
El Morro fort

El Morro fort

View of Havana
We decided to take a horse and cart to view Old Havana which we paid 20 CUC (around £6) after haggling and getting 5 CUC knocked of the price. Old Havana is such a unique, mystical city which few cities in the world could match to the nostalgic cars, cobbled streets and very old houses (some which are in a desperate need of repair). We viewed numerous monuments from the remaining Spanish forts, The National Ballet Museum, The Revolution Museum and Havana Cathedral.

Old Havana
Plaza de Revolution
Havana Cathedral


Old Havana



Reveloution Square
If pacing yourself around the cobbled streets of Havana is not for you, how about a catamaran trip? We booked a catamaran excursion via Thomson which cost around £70 each and included a dolphin experience, snorkeling and a lobster lunch, plus unlimited soft and alcoholic drinks whilst abroad. The boat trip took us to Cayo Blanco, which is one of many Cayos in Cuba.

Catamaran trip


Me with dolphin


Catamaran trip

The beach x
Disclaimer: I booked and payed for this holiday myself via Thomsons, I shared my holiday as I love sharing my snaps. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cuba and will definitely will be visiting again.
xxx
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Monday, 14 October 2013

Pearlscakes, a review.

As I have previously stated in many of my previous posts, I am a chocoholic, I love baking with chocolate, eating different types of chocolates and enjoying new chocolate products.
I recently tried a selection of assorted (chocolate) luxury bars by pearlcakes and enjoyed trying my favourite chocolate tray bakes in a luxury convenient bar.  Pearlscakes is a family run bakery that make cookies, flapjacks, luxury bars and muffins which are sold in cafes, restaurants and are now sold online.  Pearlscakes offer home baked goodies at a reasonable price starting from £8 for the cookies to £12 for the luxury bars, with quick delivery within 2-3 working days.
The assorted luxury bars contains a selection of Rocky Road, Tiffin, Fudge Brownie and Billionaire shortcake and retails at £12. When the box arrived it looked more than 20 bars and the wide selection wanted to make me dive right in and taste the different chocolate bars.
Pearlscakes assorted luxury bars.


Pearlscakes assorted luxury bars

I sampled the caramel shortcake first and was surprised how thick and delicious the caramel was in the bar. The caramel was  the overriding flavour in the bar, which is to be expected for a caramel shortcake. I thought the caramel shortcake was not only the sweetest in the assorted selection but the most luxurious.
Caramel shortcake

I also tried the Rocky Road bars, as it is one of my favourite traybakes. I found the RockyRoad bar to contains lots of big chunks of marshmallows and lots of biscuits. The overall taste was everything you would expect a Rocky Road to be, chocolatey, crunchy and gooey.

Rocky Road
Rocky Road.

I gave my lovely (naturally slim) friend the cherry tiffin  and fudge brownie to taste, in order to share the calories. My friend stated that the cherry tiffin was "lovely" but her only criticism is there's a bit of cooking chocolate taste. My only criticism with these chocolates was that there is no information regarding the calorie content, but perhaps it is best not knowing!

Overall, a delicious selection of luxury bars with a long shelf-life date and very good value for money and works out at 60p a bar.

In association with pearlscakes.

xxx





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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Smartie Rainbow cake

I've been wanting to make a celebration cake for some time, and my nan's birthday was the perfect excuse to get all my baking equipment out. Last year I made a nostalgic coconut cake which my family thoroughly enjoyed and this year I wanted to recreate another simple yet wow cake. I initially thought of making Lorraine Pascale's malteser from Fast Fresh and Easy cookbook but bookmarked this for a further date as over the top chocolate is not for everyone.
As there would have been several children sampiling the birthday cake I decided on making a rainbow cake, a cake with different colours on each layer and I wanted to decorate with smarties. The recipe that I based my cake on is Ed Kimber's rainbow cake from his second book Say It With Cake. I found the recipe easy to follow but if I were to make this again, I would make sure I had 6 gel colours instead of 4 to make the cake was more colourful. I decided on sticking to my trusted buttercream mixture.
Here is how my smartie rainbow cake turned out:
Smartie rainbow cake

Smartie rainbow cake

The recipe for the smartie cake cam be found here.


xxx
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