Friday, 24 September 2010

Christmas Cake Bake Off

Last Christmas they had another cake bake off at work (actually, I don't think I've written about the first, I made my lemon drizzle and won).  I wanted to make a carrot cake (for the reindeer as it was a christmassy theme) so I found a more suitable recipe than the last one with cinnamon in and everything.  My friend at work who loves carrot cake told me it was really good, so I'm pleased that I found a good recipe at last.  I know it was definitely a carrot cake, because I didn't like it!

I also made a golden syrup cake with icing sugar in star shapes on top.  This cake I did like, although I got annoyed by the number of stars I smudged when trying to take the paper off. 

Neither cake won, I think I placed 4th and 7th but I don't know which was which.  This cake bake off wasn't very well organised, so I'm not sure if I'll take part again, I do really enjoy it, but it took over a month to get the results back which just seemed excessive. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Seven Days of Food

I signed up to a swapbot swap, where you have to take photos of your food for seven days and then send to your partners.  Now, I took some interesting photos so I thought it would be good to write about it here instead so I could share it with all of you.  I kept forgetting to take photos so I'm cutting it very close to the deadline (today!).

So, my week of food started last Tuesday.  I'd bought some goats cheese with garlic from the Romsey Show so we thought we'd make pitta bread pizzas with it, but got back Monday night from our weekly shop and realised we'd neglected to pick up any pittas.  So we improvised and used tortillas.  I think I actually liked it more because it was crispier.  

We had it with salad - served in my wonderful salad bowl that is very hard to tell if it's clean or not.

Here's a shot of both together on one plate.  (On the pizza is goats cheese, onion marmalade and mushrooms - Ian had the same but without the onion).

Wednesday should have been my night to cook, but we instead went to a local pub with some friends from work.  I had the twice cooked belly pork and it was good! Full review here.

On Thursday, Ian made chicken enchiladas while I went off shopping at hobbycraft for some wedding invite things (but they didn't have what we wanted).  They were really good, and we used the leftover tortillas from Tuesday which makes me happier as I don't like waste.  

I also had some cheesecake on Thursday (although I made it Tuesday night but totally neglected to take it into work on Wednesday morning).  It was a baked white chocolate one, and went down a treat with my colleagues.  

Friday night was chilli from the freezer.  I tend to try and make extra portions so we can just microwave something one night a week, and we even saved on the washing up by eating it straight out of the tub.

On Saturday, we went and got some pork shoulder from the local butchers and had a roast dinner.  Ian stewed some apples to go with it, but possibly added too much sugar so we ended up with more toffee apple pieces than apple sauce.  It was still good though.  I think this meal is lacking in green.  The potatoes were very tasty (but probably far from healthy).  

Sunday was my turn to cook (to replace Wednesday when we ate out).  I was down to make a lamb tikka masala.  Ian made the rice.  I think we both did something wrong because it wasn't very good.  Here it is in all it's glory. 

And here is what we ended up eating having decided that the curry wasn't edible.  Yay for take away.

Lastly, today's meal.  We shop every Monday, so we always try to buy something we can just eat quickly when we get home without cooking.  Sometimes we get a waitrose cooked chicken.  Today we had prawns with bread - not very exciting, but it's quick.  Apologies for the terrible photo, the prawns seemed to keep catching the light on my flash.   

I really enjoyed seeing what everyone else had to eat too, and it really made me think more about adding other colours to my food, and working out how to plate up to maximise prettiness. 

The Dog and Crook, Braishfield

Now, the plan was to go to Gourmet Burger Night at the Wheatsheaf - but this was recently taken over and no longer does gourmet burgers.  So, instead, twelve of us ended up at the Dog and Crook.  We waited quite some time for our food to arrive, but I think that may have been because we were such a large group on a week night.  

I ordered the twice cooked belly pork, Ian opted for the rump and rib combo.  My belly pork was tasty, the crackling was a little dry in places, but otherwise good.  The mash was creamy and there was a decent amount of veg with it.  Ian's rump seemed quite small and overcooked, and I think he's been a little spoilt with his weekly ribs at The Dolphin because there wasn't all that many in this meal, but it tasty, although apparently a little tough.  The chips were quite nice.  It came with home made coleslaw which neither of us tried.

We were tempted by the desserts, both opting for the chocolate pudding (described as a sponge, with a white chocolate middle and chocolate pouring sauce).  The white chocolate centre was tiny and not very central so was pretty disappointing.  

Halloween Muffins

I went to a halloween party, and I did not have time to bake anything.  So, I bought some mini muffins, and some chocolate, and decorated them instead.  It was fun, although I almost missed my train and I had to leave the mess for Ian to clear up (ah, what a shame!).  They went down well at the party, but I think next time I'll make the muffins myself too. 

Friday, 17 September 2010

Got cream? Make butter!

I read Amy's blog post about making your own butter, and I couldn't resist the urge to try it too.  I didn't take pictures of the process so if you want more than just a picture of the end results, scoot on over to Amy's post for more detail.  As she says, it was incredibly easy.  I added a little salt to the end result and I was so happy to eat toast for the next three days - terrible for my waistline but it made me smile non stop!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Not a Carrot Cake!

I here a lot of people talk about how they like carrot cake all the time, so I thought I'd try and add it to my repertoire.  Now, I don't like carrot cake, so this is clearly proof of how much I love my friends.  I got out my trusty Mary Berry book, found the carrot cake recipe, and set to work.  This has carrot, banana and walnut in it.  It's got a yummy cream cheese frosting too (with chopped walnuts in it). 

The only thing is.... my friend tells me it's not a carrot cake.  Which is a shame because I actually really liked this cake! Apparently carrot cakes should have cinnamon in them.  I just followed the recipe, so I blame Mary Berry (although, I also thank her for a lovely recipe at the same time).  The cake went, and all agreed it was good, but that it was not a carrot cake.  So my search for a carrot cake recipe continues. 

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Jolokia, Hockley Heath

Over the bank holiday weekend, Ian and I went to stay with his parents up in Solihull.  Ian lives in quite a small village but it has a nice indian restaurant less than a minutes walk away.  We've been before but I've neglected to write about it so I'm reviewing it now.  

My favourite part is all the starters, so Ian and I decided to order two starters each and just share a main.  So we ordered the four starters all to come out at once - I went for prawn puree and spice aubergine (aubergine stuffed with spicy minced lamb), Ian opted for the Malai Tikka (chicken spiced with ginger and garlic and sprinkled with cheese) and the Mango Tikka (chicken in a spicy mango sauce).  

The staff at the restaurant are very friendly and have a good sense of humour.  They bought out the plates of food and put them in the middle of our table (they weren't to know that we were having two complete starters each instead of half of all four).  They then returned with the following plates.  Certainly memorable!

My prawn puree looked so good, all stacked up (I've had this in other indian restaurants and it's never looked this pretty before), and tasted great too.  The aubergine was yummy and Ian's two types of tikka were good too, although one was scarily green which we weren't expecting!


For the main we went for the Shahi Bedami curry (chicken in a cream and tomato based curry with ground cashew nuts).  It was a bit too gloopy for me, but pleasant - I didn't have too much because the two starters were probably enough for me so Ian finished it off and I was very pleased that we didn't waste anything like we normally do.  

We rarely order dessert in indian restaurants as they're generally just frozen things as opposed to homemade things, so we stopped off at the shop next door and grabbed some ice creams.  

Ian's really lucky to have such a lovely restaurant so close to his parents house.  (If you're in the area, definitely go here and not to the chip shop - that was rubbish!)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Ian's Birthday Dinner 2009

I love my Ian.  Lots.  So for some reason, I think it's a good idea to try and poison him on his birthday.  I actually attempted to cook for a whole week as part of his birthday, but I only have photographic evidence of one day.  I attempted a goats cheese pannacotta, something I'd eaten when on holiday in Oxford with my mum.  I chose far too mild a goats cheese so it lost the real flavour which was a shame, but it set well (too well, it refused to come out of it's dish).  There's thankfully no photo of this, cos it looked pretty boring really. 
One of the successful dishes was halloumi and sweetcorn fritters.  They were yummy, but we ate far too many of them to count as a starter! 

One of the mains I tried was lamb wellingtons - I put small lamb steaks and some redcurrant jelly into puff pastry and cooked - they were good, although the pastry went a little soggy in places.  

I can't remember what else I cooked that week, I'm pretty sure he got steak (which always goes down well) and probably a baked camembert (my quick easy 'safe' starter).  He's still alive, so I couldn't a have done that badly!

Just as I was about to post this, I found another photo - now, if I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure what it is, but are those puff pastry stars cute (I think Ian cooked this, as it's slow cooked ox cheek and I don't know how to make that - but I definitely made the cute stars with the leftover pastry, probably from the lamb parcels).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Tasty Lamb Shank

Not much of a story behind this one, it was just a delicious dinner.  Lamb shank, in the slow cooker, with a nice minty redcurranty gravy, mash and yummy cabbage and peas. 

Friday, 3 September 2010


Quite a few birthdays ago, I bought Ian a waffle maker.  We decided to invite my friend round for waffles (share the waffle love).  We'd also utilised the ice cream maker that my friend got us for a housewarming gift so we had strawberry and vanilla ice cream to go on our waffles.  The waffle maker makes funny flower shaped waffles that you can pull apart to get 6 heart shaped waffles.  Their quite thin waffles, but yummy. 

As with the pancakes (which actually happened after this, just in case you're wondering), we had plenty of toppings.  For future reference, black treacle does not make a good topping. 

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Swap - Scavenger Hunt

My first ever swap was a scavenger hunt (you get a list of words and have to find something that fits each one) and I really enjoyed it so I was really pleased to see another hunt swap.  I received my package about a week before I'd even started thinking about mine (I'm a post partner assignment swapper as I like to really make it personalised, whereas some people have everything ready to send before partners are allocated).  

The seven categories this time round were: Red, Key, Flower, Fairytale, Animal, Something Sweet, and Profile Surprise.  

Above is my swap package - my partner included a small red notebook, a key necklace, a lovely pincushion covered in flowers, a card embellishment "WISH" as all fairytales start with one, some owl stickers (my favourite animal at the moment), some orange sweets (my favourite flavour!) and some measuring cups, which I somehow missed out of the picture, to help me cook the recipes in the edible New Orleans magazine she also included.  Totally fab package to receive - I'm probably going to hoard the owl stickers instead of using them because I love them so much.  

Here's a close up of the superb pin cushion - really good handiwork.

It took me a while to get my swap together - I had lots of ideas for some of the categories, but totally drew a blank for others.  Here is what I sent my partner.

Red - Cupcake toppers (I got carried away with my previous swap!)

Key - A MonKEY KEYring (see what I did there?)

Flower - I didn't take a picture of this, but I found some flower fairy colouring in sheets (difficult ones, not childrens ones) and as my partner likes flower fairies (and painting), I thought this would fit nicely. 

Fairytale - This was my experimental item - I found some fabric pens in town and decided to buy some hankies and add little fairytale pictures onto them.  I'm not great at drawing so Ian helped out with this one a bit, it was good fun to do and I think they turned out pretty good.  

Animal - my swap partner had owls and penguins listed in her favourite animals on her profile, and these card embellishments just jumped out at me.  

Something sweet - I added in some skittles as I was worried any chocolate would melt.

Profile surprise - I think I really caused myself problems with this one, because I made everything else fit with her profile so I was out of ideas.  I settled on some postcards from Birmingham (where I was staying when I sent out the swap) and included my rail tickets that I used to get to Birmingham as she likes things from the UK, so I hoped they'd be something she'd never gotten before.  

I'm pretty pleased with how my swap turned out - hopefully she will be too!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Swap - Cupcake Toppers

Before this swap I'd never heard of a cupcake topper.  The swap included a link to some instructions and it looked simple so I thought I'd sign up.  

I was not expecting to enjoy making these so much - I could have made so many more (unfortunately I was going away for the weekend and didn't want to miss the deadline). 

I sent my partner a quick note to see if she had any parties coming up so that I could fit in with any themes she had in mind, and she mentioned that it was her son's first birthday next February.  I didn't want to send her something she couldn't use for six months, so I set about making these cute elephant ones.  They were very simple as the elephants were pre-cut and sticky, so I just added the stick and then used foam pens to make them all slightly different.  I found on the internet that it's Elephant Appreciation Day on September 22nd so I suggested she threw a themed party to celebrate!

I then set about making the ones for her sons birthday - I cut the circles out by hand as I didn't have a circle punch (something I definitely think I should invest in as it would give a much better finish).

And because I didn't want to stop making them, I also made some purple butterfly ones.  

The swap called for flat ones, but my elephant toppers were made out of foam, so I was worried about sending them in an envelope.  I found some polystyrene upstairs (from some flat pack furniture we recently bought) and had a brainwave!

So my well packed toppers are now on their way to Canada and I can't wait to receive mine!