Saturday, 30 November 2013

Whiskey Flavoured Scottish Tablet.

Today is St Andrews Day in Scotland. I have Scottish grandparents and red hair so I think of myself as a honorary Scot, or at least I do on St Andrews Day and Burns Night so I can justify eating vast quantities of Haggis and Shortbread.

Yesterday at work we had a little celebration at lunch time, we ate haggis pies (pictured above) and everyone brought something Scottish in to share. Someone had already chosen to bring Shortbread so I decided to try something new and make Tablet.

I scoured the internet for a recipe and found one that looked relatively easy, although after I began cooking I realised there were glaring holes in the recipe which left me wondering if what I was doing was at all right, I ended up goggling furiously towards the end looking for pictures of what my tablet should look like.

I shouldn't have worried as it all turned out fine in the end.

whiskey scottish tabletwhiskey scottish tablet

This recipe made about 100-130 small squares, I used a 39cm x 27cm x 2.5cm baking tray and it only filled half of it, but the consistency of the tablet meant I could mould it into one end of the tin quite easily.

print recipe
Whiskey Scottish Tablet
  • 150ml Semi-skimmed Milk
  • 500g Granulated Sugar
  • 397g tin Condensed Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Whiskey or Bourbon (could sub for vanilla or other flavouring)
  • Greaseproof Paper (Enough to line a shallow 25mm tin)
Pop the sugar and milk into a large heavy bottomed saucepan, I used my biggest pan as the temperature gets pretty high so any splashes would be seriously painful. Bring to the boil for around 5-6 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. I stirred it occasionally. (I wasn't sure if I was suppose to stir it at this stage, but it didn't do any harm)Add the tin of condensed milk (slowly to avoid splashing) and stir constantly for 20 minutes. It is important to not stop stirring.After 20 minutes it should have thickened and turned a caramel colour, add the whiskey and stir for another 30 second to combinetake off the heat and stir quickly for a minute or so, as it will start to thicken and harden as it cools.pour into a shallow baking tin, which should be lined with grease proof paper. It will be hardening fast so smoosh it in and push it right into the corners.leave it for around 15 minutes to cool and set, then lift the tablet out of the tin (using the greaseproof) and chop into small squares. It is ready to serve immediately, or store it in an airtight container, it should keep for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!)

I scheduled this post for this morning, then woke up to the awful news of the helicopter crash in Glasgow. I just wanted to add that my thoughts are with those involved xx


Friday, 29 November 2013

Black & White Coconut Cookies.

cookies for santa
I feel like I should preface this blog post with the fact that I have managed to munch my way through 4 (that's right, 4!!!) of these magically moreish cookies in the past 23 minutes. Seriously, if I hadn't made them myself I would of sworn they contained crack.

I don't often make cookies, I can never seem to get them just right. I like my cookies chunky with a slight hint of chewiness to them. Every time I have tried making them I've ended up with a thin overly chewy creation, or a thick, short, crumbly biscuit. I just haven't found the perfect formula.

These cookies are pretty darn close to perfection for me, and strangely get even better with age!

christmas cookies

The key ingredient in this recipe is Coconut Oil rather than butter. I have been seeing coconut oil popping up all over the place recently, beauty bloggers are raving about its moisturising qualities for both skin and hair, food bloggers are all over it in baking and popcorn making. So when I saw a jar in Holland and Barratt I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about.

The way some people talk about this stuff it sounds like a cure-all for just about everything. I tried it on my hair, it was alright, smelled amazing but I didn't notice a massive change in texture or shine. I tried it on my body... again it was nice, smelled amazing, made things feel softer.

By far my favourite use for it so far has been these cookies, I reserve the right to change my mind when I try the popcorn though.

If you've got a great coconut oil recipe, please share it in the comments!

The coconut oil has a wonderful subtle coconut flavour which in addition to the desiccated coconut really makes this recipe special. I used three types of chocolate in my cookies but it would totally work with just one, its very adaptable.

print recipe
Black & White Coconut Cookies
This recipe makes 12 large cookies or around 18 smaller ones.
  • 125g Dark Chocolate
  • 135g Plain Flour
  • 15g Desiccated Coconut
  • 30g Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • half a teaspoon Salt
  • 125g Coconut Oil
  • 75g Light Muscavado Sugar
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 200g Chopped White and Milk Chocolate (or you can use chips if you prefer)
Preheat the oven to 170CStart by melting the 125g of dark chocolate. Cream the coconut oil and sugars together, I used my Kitchenaid for this, but you can do it by hand. It took about 2-3 minutes in the mixer.Add the melted chocolate to the oil/sugar mixer and combine.Mix in the egg and vanilla extract next and beat until combined.Sift in the dry ingredients followed by the chopped chocolate pieces.Pop your dough in the fridge to firm up slightly before shaping.Roll into equal sized balls and press down on the top lightly, they spread in the oven so leave enough room between each cookie for spreading.Bake at 170C for 15-18 minutes, you want the cooking to still be slightly soft when you take them out, they will firm as they cool.

Now, if you'll excuse me I am off to dunk one of these bad boys into a cup of tea while I plan my Christmas menu for this year. I am totally not on the ball with Christmas food planning, so if you have any inspiration or advice please share it!

Also, I have it on good authority that Santa loves coconut, so these would be the perfect cookie to leave out on December 24th. Just saying.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Winter Warmer: Spicy Carrot Soup

winter warming soup

Well it is officially winter, I don't know about you but Jack Frost has definitely been nipping at my nose. The temperature may be dropping but my appetite seems to be increasing at a remarkable rate, all thoughts of eating healthily and losing weight have gone out of the window and all I can think about is big cosy duvets and eating. Its like I am secretly a bear and am preparing for hibernation.

Please tell me there is some science based reason for this and I am not just a greedy guts!

Anyway, I made this soup months and months ago but never posted the recipe, so I thought I'd share something warm, comforting AND healthy. Partly as its cold and soup is warm, but also to remind myself that this is what I should be eating.

So please see this post as a giant reminder sign to myself screaming "EAT ME""

spicy carrot soup

I bought a small jar of Laksa paste from Sainsburys on a whim, it added a lovely freshness to the soup. You can sub this with anything really, whatever spices you love. I found Harissa also works really well too.

The chilli powder is from The Spicery, it is a lovely mild yet flavourful spice. You could replace with regular chilli powder or paprika.

print recipe
Spicy Carrot Soup
  • 3-4 large, peeled. Carrots
  • 1, small Red Onion
  • 1 tablespoon Laksa Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kasmiri Chilli Powder
  • 1 Veggie Stock Cube (made up to 1.5 pints)
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic
Roughly chop the carrot, onion and garlic ( I used lazy garlic, which is prechopped).gently fry off the onion and garlic on a low heat for a couple of minutes.Add the Laksa Paste and chilli powder and stir.Throw in the carrots and pour over the stock.Leave to simmer until the carrots are soft and your house smells amazing.Blitz in a blender (or with a stick blender) until smooth.You can stir in a little creme fraiche or natural yoghurt at the end if you like.

I had my soup with some rice cakes and half a pot of cottage cheese, t'was delicious!

If you have a winner of a soup recipe (or stews) please share them with me, I have made a few different soups and stews lately which have been lacking in the flavour department.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Stuff What I Did - Episode One

I have been a blur recently, I've been to so many places and done so many things I have hardly had time to think let alone write about them. Every time I go somewhere in the back of my mind I am thinking about how I would blog about it, taking photos to share with you all, then before I know it its 2 months later and it feels like the moment has passed. I think part of my problem is that I feel compelled to give you a nice long meaty post with hilarious anecdotes up the wazoo... In reality I just don't have time to blog each and every moment, no matter how much I might want to.

So rather than just not mentioning anything I thought I would do little round-up posts. Little snippets of things, restaurants I've loved, events I've gone to, Food I've sampled and just have to tell you about...

I'm sure you get the picture, so without futher ado, here is some stuff what I did "recently" (not that recently but lets pretend, OK?)...

Brewdog Newcastle

One of my favourite parts of the city is Grey Street. It is not only an architectural beauty spot, it also houses the Theatre Royal (pictured) which has had a little facelift recently and is frankly stunning, especially at night. Walking down Grey Street in the evening is lovely and there are lots of wonderful restaurants and bars all the way to the Quayside.

Nestled between Grey St and the Quayside you can find Brewdog. Now until recently I had never really considered Brewdog as a place for me, I am not a big beer drinker and I always felt a bit lost looking at the beer menu.

However, when I was invited to attend an afternoon tea with a punk twist I jumped at the chance. They paired each of their signature ales with various meats, cheeses and cake. (Cake lovingly supplied by Pet Lamb Patisserie)

I was plesently surprised to find how much I enjoyed some of the lighter brews, the Punk IPA and 5am Saint were my favourites. Some of the darker ales were too strong for my liking. Brewdog have bars all over the UK, so dont be scared, go on in and enjoy some quality brews.


Urban Night Feast

The second annual Urban Night Feast happened in early October. I had such a great time at the first event back in 2012 I was really looking forward to it. UNF is a street food event which draws vendors from all around the UK to Newcastle basically to have a great big party!

The event is organised by Maunika Gowardhan and although it got a little stick not using "local" street food vendors I personally like the fact that we got a chance to sample some of what the rest of the UK have to offer right on our doorstep. We are lucky enough to have a lot of wonderful street food in Newcastle, it nice to be able to taste and experience a few others without having to buy exorbitant train tickets.

Some of my highlights from this years feast; Luardo's pulled pork burrito, Deeny's "Macbeth" haggis toastie, The Travelling Gin Company's Negroni and Ginola cocktails, Horn OK Please and their amazing bhel puri and finally the wonderful Purl London and their cocktail masterclass.

I paid the extra £12 to go to the Purl masterclass, where I learned all about prohibition cocktails and smoke infused alcohol... To be honest I am struggling to remember what they talked to us about, but I can assure you their "Bribe" cocktail was equal parts tasty and lethal.

All in all a fun night was had by all.

Lane 7 Opening

It seems that you can't take 3 steps without seeing a new place opening in Newcastle at the moment. Not that I'm complaining, it pleases me greatly to see some fun new alternatives to the usual haunts. I heard about Lane 7 through Twitter, the idea was for a boutique bowling alley and restaurant. Forget formica tables, moulded seats and plastic hot-dogs imagine the best bar you’ve ever been to with bowling.

I was really excited to go check it out, especially after Stalking following the chef on twitter and getting a sneak peak at the menu. inspired by classic American dishes, from burgers and ribs to mac n cheese and pulled pork, Screw the bowling I am going for the food!

I was certainly not disappointed! I went with four friends and I went for the Mac n Cheese (with sweet potato fries) and the others opted for the Pulled Pork Bun, Double Cheese Burger and the Spatch-cock Piri piri Chicken. I don't think any of us spoke for about 10 minutes after the food came, we were far too busy shoving it into our faces.

Seriously, it was good. The Mac n Cheese was not super cheesy (would of loved maybe a bit of blue cheese going on) but the crispy onions and herby breadcrumbs lifted it, making it a wonderfully comforting dish. The sweet potato fries were delicious of course, how could they not be?

We had a quick go at the bowling, which was fun and all but I wouldn't necessarily go rushing back to bowl. Its a great added extra but the best part for me (besides the food) was the overall atmosphere. The clatter of pins, the bold and beautful decor and the attentive and friendly service are what make this place special.

I read a really great post over on Happy Yolks today which talked about places trying so hard to be "hip" and cool that they forget the human element. I can honestly say from my experience Lane 7 gets the balance just right, and I will be going back and I will be trying the salt beef hash.

So hope you enjoyed the first installment of "Stuff What I Did"... Tune in next time for tapas, gin bars and pizza!


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like...


Before I jump into this post, have we all seem the John Lewis Christmas advert? I know people have mixed opinions on it, but I think its cute, the Hare's sad "I miss my friend" face gets me everytime. Just in case you live under a rock and missed it...

I have a confession to make, I bloody love this time of year, the cold weather, wrapping up in scarves, gloves and coats, going Christmas shopping and trying to find that perfect gift for someone... Bliss.

I love buying presents for people, spending time thinking of something they would love. I pride myself on being a good-gift-buyer. I think letters to Santa and wishlists have their place, but I much prefer the thrill of finding the perfect gift for someone, seeing something and immediately knowing that that special person would LOVE it!

One of my favourite things to do for Christmas is give people hampers, I usually try to build up a selection of goodies and wrap them creatively myself, I've always thought shop bought hampers were a bit stuffy, all shortbread and chutney and absolutely no fun at all.

Boy was I wrong...

I was sent this beautiful hamper of goodies from John Lewis and was bowled over by the selection of sweet treats. It is almost like someone picked each thing especially for me! Chocolate covered pretzels, salted caramel marshmallow, jelly beans, Christmas ginger bread, turkish delight...

John Lewis offer a range of pre-packed food hampers, or a great selection of foodie gifts for you to put into your own hampers.

BTW the Baru Dark Chocolate covered marhsmallows with salted caramel were out of this world!

Ruby is clearly sold on the whole hamper idea, although her reaction to the baubles have me a little worried about our Christmas tree.

Do you do the whole hamper thing at Christmas? I am thinking of doing some homemade bits and bobs to go alongside little gifts this year, maybe some vanilla essence, gingerbread or fudge; please feel free to link to some homemade gift ideas in the comments! I am on the hunt for inspiration.

I was sent this hamper for review purposes


Monday, 18 November 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 18th November.

Gratuitous Picture of my Cat

I had a very busy week last week, so feel like I didn't cook at all. This week is looking much quieter so I am keen to get back in the kitchen and back to normality a little. I ate out a lot last week and on Wednesday night I ate a massive amount of lovely cheese. At the time it was heavenly but afterwards I was reminded of my possible lactose-intolerance issues. Ugh.

So, I am trying the whole no dairy thing again. Wish me luck!

My breakfast and lunch for the week will include mostly porridge (with lactose-free milk), fruit, soup and leftovers.

Chicken Enchiladas (half with no cheese for me), using leftover roast chicken from yesterday this is an incredibly easy midweek meal.

BBQ Chicken thighs with homemade wedges and salad

Bangers and mash (loving the cold weather induced winter foods that are sneaking into my plan)

Some sort of chilli/ bolognese / cottage pie type dish. Basically something with beef mince, I'll see how I feel on the day.

Pork chops with boiled potatoes and veg.

A pretty simple and typical meal plan for me, but honestly this is just what I need.

What are you guys eating this week?


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Battle of the Stand Mixers: Sage vs Kitchenaid

One question I get asked a lot is if I would recommend the Kitchenaid artisan mixer. I use mine a lot in home baking and you'll often see a cheeky flash of green in my blog photos. I got my KA Artisan mixer for Christmas last year, I had wanted one for so long and was thrilled when I found one under the Christmas tree.

I definitely think a stand mixer is an essential piece of kit for someone who is passionate about baking and spends a fair amount of time doing it. OK, maybe essential is too strong a word, its possible to go without, but as a stand mixer owner I couldn't imagine not having one now.

I am going to be completely honest with you here, I didn't really do a lot of research before choosing KitchenAid, I wanted one for completely vain reasons, I wanted to classic styling and vibrant colour. That's not to say that KA is not great at what it does, but it's by no means the most powerful on the market.

So, on to the purpose of this post, I am going to put my beloved KitchenAid up against "new kid on the block" Sage Scraper Mixer Pro, (Sage Appliances are the Heston Blumenthal range of kitchen products). How do they compare? I plan to look at everything from function and looks to price and value for money. I for one am really interested to see how my current mixer stacks up against its rivals!

As I have already admitted my vanity to you all shall we start with the look of the mixers? Everyone knows the classic look of the KitchenAid, its rounded shape, vivid colour selection and retro feel make it stand out from the rest. I don't know a single KA owner who doesn't keep theirs on the kitchen bench, part kitchen gadget, part decorative statement.

So how does the Sage stack up? In my opinion, purely in terms of looks it really doesn't. The overall appearance is much bulkier, more masculine and almost futuristic in design. It has a dial for the speed settings, a count up and down timer with pause function for precise mixing, and fancy LED lights up the side which show the speed being used.

Basically, if you have ever watched any of Heston's programmes on the telly, it looks like the exact type of kit he would use.

It's personally not my style, but if you like stainless steel/ silver, futuristic-looking gadgets, you will love it!

We've got the vanity out of the way so lets get down to business, how does it stack up in the functionality department?

Both mixers come with the standard dough hook, paddle beater and whisk attachments. The Sage mixer also has a "windscreen wiper" paddle beater which scrapes the side of the bowl as you use it, which is brilliant for creaming butter and sugar. With the regular paddle attachment you tend to get a fair bit of butter sticking to the bowl, so have to stop and scrape periodically.

KitchenAid do offer their own version; "Flex-Edge" beater. You can purchase this for around £35. I do think it is a useful addition and its great that the Sage mixer comes with one already, I do wish the KitchenAid came with one as standard.

Both machines come with a plastic "pouring-shield" which fits on top of the bowl, this is great when adding dry ingredients, it stops the inevitable cloud of icing sugar when mixing. The Sage shield is a complete circle with a pouring spout, whereas, the KA shield has a large gap at the back for easy removal while mixing, the complete circle works better while mixing, but in order to remove it you need to take the spout off, and it can be a bit fiddly.

Its six and two three really as to which I prefer, the KA is easier to add and remove while using but I tend to have to use a tea towel to cover the back-gap. The Sage shield effectively stops the icing sugar cloud, but is a pain to take on and off during use...

KitchenAid also offers a vast range of extra add-ons for your mixer, from an ice cream maker, sausage maker, mincer, pasta machine... The list goes on. While they can be expensive, it means your basic machine can serve multiple uses. I haven't got around to trying any of the additional attachments yet, but I do like that I have this option. Sage is still a relatively new brand, so far they offer an ice cream maker attachment/bowl, I am curious to see if they release any further attachment options.

I decided to try a basic cake batter and a bread dough in the Sage mixer, one thing I don't like about my kitchenaid is how it handles bread dough. I rarely use it for kneading as it has a habit of jumping off the bench when things get a bit tough. The Sage mixer handled bread a lot better, it felt more sturdy and I trusted it to do its thing without me watching over it.

So, in terms of functionality I would have to give this one to Sage, it just seems to be more powerful and stable. Looking at the specs the KA is 300W and the Sage is 1000W... So there is a big difference! Its not too noticeable on cakes and wetter doughs, but when the going gets tough, the Sage comes out on top.

Now lets get down to value for money. The KitchenAid is the more expensive machine starting at around £379 (although John Lewis have an offer on at the moment, free ice cream attachment with your purchase!).

The Sage Scraper Mixer Pro is £299.95, so much more affordable for essentially a more powerful machine.

Its a difficult one to call for me, as although the Sage Mixer is clearly the better value, more powerful machine. The KitchenAid has the look, the status, and for what I need a stand mixer for, it does its job well enough. I think if I was looking to save up to buy my own machine I would seriously consider the Sage, I would still swoon over the Beautiful KitchenAids but I am not sure I could justify the additional cost. So, essentially I would spend my own money on the Sage, but ask Santa for a Kitchenaid.

Have you asked Santa for a Stand Mixer this year?

I was sent the Sage Scrape Mixer Pro for the purposes of this review.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 11th November

Gratuitous Picture of my Cat

Hello, My name is Nelly and its been nearly a month since my last blog post...


Life has just got in the way recently and my words just wouldn't form sentences. I have been very, very busy though and will be filling you in on all the gossip in the next few weeks. I am starting a new series called "Stuff What I Did" so you can hear all about what I get up to and I can tell you about the lovely places I have been and the delicious food I've been sampling...

Basically, for the past few weeks I haven't meal planned, or really cooked anything. I have been living on sandwiches and eating out! I am still pretty busy this week, but wanted to try and bring some semblance of order back to my life, and writing these posts help me do this. So, here is the plan;

Homemade lasagna with garlic bread and wine - I was away most of the weekend so promised to make a nice meal tonight, we might even set the table and eat like civilised humans!

Gammon Steaks with potato wedges and fried egg - I have a vast amount of Children in Need related baking to do so needed something easy, yet delicious which wouldn't take up too much oven time.

I am out at a Charity Night so no idea what I will be eating, but I won't be home to cook.

Enchiladas! I am deeply obsessed with mexican food right now, so plan on rustling up some chipolte chicken enchiladas.

Once again I am out, a beloved work-colleague is leaving so we are saying farewell with a few drinks.

As it stands I have no plans for this weekend, but really want to get back into the kitchen and create something! Excuse me while I hop on over to pinterest and plan some weekend kitchen magic. (suggestions welcome)

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