Monday 26 November 2012

Smoky Avocado Salsa topped White Fish


I was inspired to invent this salsa when Oxo sent out a blogger challenge to use their new 3 in 1 avocado slicer which splits, pits and slices the avocado. The OH is always asking to have more avocado, and I can never think of anything to do with it, except use it in a warm bacon and potato salad. So this challenge actually made me think a little harder than usual. As you can see, I’ve kept the smoky bacon aspect, but added a paprika twist.

Smoked Avocado Salsa topped White Fish

Ingredients: (feel free to alter the quantities according to taste)

1 large avocado

5 cherry tomatoes, cut into small chunks

100g smoked lardons

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

handful fresh chopped coriander

lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

white fish


Oven-bake your white fish with a little oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Meanwhile, fry off the lardons until browned.

Sprinkle the paprika over the lardons, stir it in, remove from the heat and add the chopped tomatoes and half of the coriander. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top. Set aside.

Peel, pit and chop your avocado.

Oxo 3 in 1

Mix into the warm lardons mixture, add a glug of extra virgin olive oil and the rest of the coriander. Season to taste.

Remove fish from oven and spoon over the smoked avocado salsa.


That’s it…simple. And made much easier by the new slicer thingumajig. It might even help me use avocados more often now I don’t get all the messiness!


Monday 19 November 2012

Abra-ca-Debora Pancake Supper


I’m always on the look out for new ideas and quick and easy supper recipes, so was eager to get started when these pancakes arrived on my doorstep, along with a few other items to get started. I had, however, already chosen how I was going to use them.


The savoury pancakes would be used as a receptacle for Tartiflette, the sweet as a base for a Banoffee Pancake Cake! Tartiflette is one of my all time favourite cold winter recipes, so is perfect as the nights draw in. It’s simply a case of frying off lardons and sliced onions, seasoning, parboiling chopped potatoes then browning with the lardons.


Next, pour in a little cream, transfer to an ovenproof dish, top with Reblochon cheese and bake.


For exact quantities, see below. When bubbling and brown, spoon over a hot pancake.



The Banoffee cake was more of an experiment, but perfect if you’ve forgotten to make a pudding, as I had, when friends arrive for dinner. I made this in approximately 5 minutes whilst chatting! Simply stack then heat your sweet pancakes in the microwave. Meanwhile, whisk some double cream and chop a couple of bananas. If you wanted, you could even use squirty cream for ease. When the pancakes are heated through, top with half a can of Carnation Caramel (they’ve heated and caramelised it for you already, so no tin boiling required!), sliced banana, whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa.


The pancakes, especially since they have a delicious vanilla flavour, act as the perfect quick base for this easy pudding.

If I made the Tartiflette Pancakes again, I think I’d try an easier way. I’d fry off the onions and lardons and parboil the potatoes as before. Then, I’d use the pancakes to wrap the mixture (like making Enchiladas), including a slice of the Reblochon, and lay the rolled pancakes side by side in a dish. I’d pour over the cream, top with any leftover cheese and bake til the cream had thickened. I think this would cut out a step or two and be generally easier.


You could even layer a pancake flat, top with the mixture, include a slice of cheese and lay another pancake, mixture, etc., as with a lasagne, then pour the cream over and bake.

Although the pancakes seemed quite stiff when removed from the packet, once heated, they were a nice texture. And I particularly enjoyed the sugariness of the sweet ones, even simply melting some chocolate and pouring on top for one quick treat!

Tartiflette: Serves 3/4

1 pack Abra-ca-Debora original Dutch pancakes

200g smoked lardons

1 large onion, sliced

150mls single cream

3/4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 Reblochon

Banoffee Pie: Serves 6

1 pack Abra-ca-Debora sweet Dutch pancakes

150ml double / whipping cream

1/2 small tin Carnation Caramel

2 bananas


Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Dining in the Dark @ The Living Room W1

If someone asked you to Dine in the Dark, would you?

This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I was lucky enough to have recently been invited to participate in an event at The Living Room W1. Thankfully, it didn’t involve a darkened room, or deep purple velour curtains to block the light (as I worried it might!), but a table of fellow food bloggers in a lively restaurant, each having been assigned their own blindfold and quiz sheet. 

Myself and the OH, @kaveyf, @wl_living and @candidsbyjo sat happily in The Living Room, W1 on Heddon St, London. I’ve never been to a ‘Living Room’ before, but was surprised with the buzz for a Thursday evening. A little worried about what other diners might think about a group of people donning blindfolds to eat our food, we double-checked the rules, were given our instructions and began the tasting challenge. Now, I’ve always thought that my senses of smell and taste were very good, but having a blindfold on, and no menu to double-check ingredients, makes it so much harder than first thought!


We worked our way through the new menu, from starters to cocktails! Most of the tasters were served on sticks or on Chinese spoons which were kindly guided to our mouths if necessary. (That’s something else…try feeding yourself whilst blindfolded!)  Questions ranged from guessing the spices, to the main ingredient, or even the flavour of the accompaniment. I found myself using my sense of touch an awful lot more than usual, picking the spoons and stick apart and tasting each individual piece flavour by flavour.


One of the first tastes was so familiar…on the tip of my tongue, so to speak. But it took until the very last minute for me to actually realise it was goat’s cheese. I know what you’re thinking…’But that’s such a recognisable taste’. And yes, you’re right, it is. But not when you’ve got no idea what’s coming up, the name of the dish, not when you haven’t chosen it from the menu, read the ingredients, or SEEN it! The question was to name the accompaniments to the Black Forest smoked cured ham. I was pleased to have managed, from the depths of my brain, to have identified two of the three: the goat’s cheese, eventually, and beetroot. There was no chance I was also going to decide upon the raspberry in the vinaigrette! The menu-speak for this delicious starter is ‘Black Forest smoked cured ham and fig, with a goats cheese mousse and raspberry and beetroot vinaigrette’. All I know is that it was yummy!


I can’t possibly name all the little taster spoons we had, but I’ll pick out a few highlights for you:

The ‘Toulouse sausage in a spicy tomato, fennel, green pepper and paprika sauce on ciabatta’ was a tasty mouthful where I felt the flavours all combined well. It was also one of the easier challenges, with such strong flavours and I managed to find the fennel and paprika on this one. I’m also a sucker for a burger if we go out to eat, and the ‘Pork and chorizo burger with a smoked paprika aioli on a brioche bun’ was another favourite of mine. If you’re having a steak, I’d definitely recommend one of the flavoured butters to add a little something extra. The Blue cheese and port is particularly strong and thick, the garlic and parsley does what it says and the more unusual Bloody Mary has a good tomatoey flavour.

One of the ingredients most of us failed to identify at all, was the plum in the Duck breast with szechuan pepper and plum chutney, chilli fried bok choi and sweet potato fondant. There really didn’t seem to be any plummy flavour there at all. Maybe with a bigger portion size, it would be more recognisable. Lastly, I’d definitely recommend the Living Room’s version of Shepherd's Pie. Now, you probably already know that the name means the meat should be lamb, a Cottage Pie, however, would normally be beef. We were asked to identify the meat in this version. I plumped for lamb, mainly based on the name rather than the flavour, and the fact I though the taste was quite rich and a little bit greasy (which I like in a pie!) It was, in fact, Venison, and was also excellent. I’d definitely be ordering this if I visited again.


We were lucky enough to taste five of the cheeses on offer: Stilton, Cheddar, Brie, Edam and Manchego and also a range of cocktails. After, of course, a small sample of puddings! The Basil Grande was very unusual, with a mix of basil, meringue, Grand Marnier, strawberries and cream, and absolutely divine!

So, we come to the end, even though I don’t think any of us achieved more than half marks! Our well-deserved winner was @wl_living with a clear lead. She even got to take home the trophy. Congratulations! ( I came second, and there was no hope of me catching the leader, even if I’d been braver with some of my answers!)


Would I recommend the new menu? Definitely. But I’d also recommend you take a blindfold, order a small selection each without telling the other, and try the Dining in the Dark challenge for yourself!

Thanks to Kat for organising. If you’d like to find out about other events, why not follow #tlrblindsupperparty on Twitter?

Friday 9 November 2012

Merlotti vs. Domino’s … Part Two

DSC_0067Some of you may remember, many years ago I took on Dominos to compare their new range of pizzas to my own. I was contacted recently to do this again, as Dominos have just released a Gourmet Specials range, including the Firenze, Florentine and Rustica pizzas. These are prepared on their Italian style base with a sundried tomato and garlic topping and various other additions, from spicy salami and pepperoni, to baby spinach, feta cheese and Roquito peppers.


For my part, I chose to cook one large pizza and split the toppings into three sections, one for each of the above. I made my own garlic and tomato sauce and used a mozzarella over the whole pizza, this time choosing a base from Phil Vickery’s Pizza Masterclass, which (I have to admit) was better than my Gino version. 

So, I went to the Domino’s site to order pizza online and chose one of each, a delivery time of 8pm and a free tub of Ben and Jerry’s! Now, I would say I sat back and waited, but in the meantime, I took my proved dough, rolled out, prepared the toppings and waited til ten to eight to top and bake, not wanting the base to go soggy. However, the Dominos then arrived, so I quickly prepared and cooked mine to add to the collection!


The first thing we noticed was that, apart from the Firenze, compared with mine, the Domino’s pizzas had fewer toppings, maybe just one of each item on every slice. And very little tomato and garlic paste. In fact, even when peeling back the layer of cheese, it was barely noticeable to look at, never mind to taste.To be fair, since I was cramming three pizzas into one, mine was heavily laden, but also had a good tasty layer of the tomato paste.

Let’s take the pizzas one by one: first the Firenze. Domino’s describe this as having Ventricina salami, pepperoni and Peruvian Roquito peppers on a fresh thin crust base. The salami and pepperoni were indeed very tasty, but we all found the sweetness of the peppers a little overpowering…do you really want a sweet pizza? Perhaps a change to a more savoury pepper might do the trick here.


Secondly, the Florentine. This is topped with baby spinach, sunblush baby plum tomatoes and Greek Feta cheese. Now, for my comparison, I simply used halved cherry tomatoes, rather than the baby sunblush, which gave a superior taste. In fact, it seemed a bit pointless having a rich tomato and garlic sauce on mine, and then using more of the same tomatoes on top. Out of all the pizzas, this was definitely the nicest flavour combination.

The third pizza we tried was the Rustica, using toppings such as chicken breast strips, smoked bacon rashers, baby spinach and sunblush baby plum tomatoes. I couldn’t taste the smokiness of the bacon with this one, or the spinach, but again, the tomatoes were good.

My pizza, as mentioned, had a thick layer of the tomatoes, sporadic mozzarella, bundles of topping and a crispy and bubbling base! I could have precooked the salami and pepperoni to give it a slight crispiness, as I like this aspect of the Domino’s version: the meat on mine was a little ‘wilted’. Also, I was upset to find that the middle of the pizza had the infamous ‘soggy bottom’; ‘not a good bake' as Paul Hollywood would say! The flavours, however, compensated for both of these!


Usually, if I ever order a Domino’s, it’s because I fancy a deep pan Pepperoni, which I just can’t make at home. Sorry Domino’s, I should learn my lesson. For just a little effort, I feel that you can make the thin crusts easily and quickly, the results being more topping, richer flavours and a crispier base; it’s also certainly lighter on the wallet with a large Domino’s costing around £17. 


So, all in all, my family (I promise, they weren’t being biased!) voted mine best for overall flavour, crispiness, bubbliness of base and price. The picture speaks for itself!


Sunday 28 October 2012

Halloween Cake Pops


I was recently sent the Bakerella Cake Pops book for my birthday and couldn’t wait to get started on these little gems! If you’ve never heard of them before, don’t worry. I only recently found out about them and have been itching to try them since but needed the motivation to actually get going!

I’m not going to bother writing how to make them here, or the ingredients you need, as Holly (of GBBO fame) has done a much better job of this on her fab blog here. But everything is available now in the UK: things such as the candy melts are readily bought in hobbycraft, the tubs of frosting in Asda, etc. so sourcing of ‘the right stuff’ has become much easier since this idea caught on.

I began by making the cake mixture itself and leaving to set. I chose round pumpkins and frilly ghosts.


Next I melted the candy and inserted the pop-sticks and left again to cool. I had big issues with the melts being far too thick, but since I began with the ghosts, this didn’t really matter as they could easily become wrinkly ghosts. The next day when I used the orange ones for the pumpkins, I put it in for much less time and stirred to help the remnants dissolve. This gave a far runnier liquid and smoother finish to the pumpkins though I still found it incredibly difficult to achieve a smoothness all over, without any of the thicker drips. Having researched this, many people seem to use Trex to thin the melts, or you could just as easily use a little vegetable oil to do the trick. I think the key to it is probably practise and slightly smaller pops.


I had also bought an edible pen with which to draw on the faces, but this proved disastrous as the pen just would not work on the dried melts. I think it’s more meant to be used on rice paper and actual icing, rather than a chocolate-type substitute. I ended up using a tube of writing icing, but couldn’t be as precise as I’d have liked with this. Next time, I’ll just stick to decoration with ready made bits and pieces, in fact, I’ve already bought some Christmassy ones and decided to coat them with chocolate rather than candy melts.  


Saturday 27 October 2012

Meatzza alla Nigella

SDC15031We sit in front of Nigella every week, even the OH asks for it to be put on record so he doesn’t miss out. There have been several recipes I’d like to try out this series, but the Meatzza seemed so easy, and an innovative way to use mince. I thought I’d give it a go first. 


It was very easy to prepare and cook. Looked good too. And it tasted…like mince pie, as it should. I did feel that the mince base lacked flavour. Maybe browning it off first, before adding to the meatzza would help?


I also used my Mermaid Cookware Tarte Tatin Tin too, which was perfect for the job in hand.

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Fish Fingers–for baby and you

SDC15008This is another simple but healthy recipe that is easily adapted for both young children and adults alike. I prefer a crispy coating on my fish fingers but didn’t really want to have to deep fry them using a batter, so opted instead for a simple breadcrumb that can be shallow fried or oven baked. If you wanted, you could dispense with the coating altogether, like the recipe from the Little Dish Favourites Cookbook, which uses lemon sole dipped in milk then flour. Mine is a more traditional version…


pepper-seasoned plain flour

beaten egg

breadcrumbs with chopped fresh parsley

partially frozen white fish fillets


I use fillets of white fish that are only partially defrosted from the freezer as this makes them so much easier to dip!

Prepare your ‘dipping plates’ first…use a plate for each of the flour, egg and breadcrumbs.


Cut the fish into finger-sized pieces.

Coat each, first in the flour, then the egg, then breadcrumbs.


Now you can choose to either place on a baking tray and oven cook until golden brown, or heat a little butter / oil in a pan and shallow fry until crispy on the outside and translucent on the inside.

Serve with home-made wedges and garlicky green beans.


Add some spicy paprika to the wedges for grown-ups. Perfect finger food for baby and a treat for you!


Disclaimer: Although I was sent the recipe book for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Review: Tarte Tatin Tin from Mermaid Cookware


Tarte Tatin is one of my favourites for pudding, but I always forget how easy it is if you have all the right ingredients in the cupboard. I use @jamieoliver ‘s recipe, (you can find it here), using a vanilla pod and seeds with a splash of calvados and lot of butter, as it’s failsafe, but I find that often, the problem comes in finding a frying pan that can also be used in the oven.


Then I was sent a new Tarte Tatin Tin from Mermaid Cookware to review. I was pleased to read that it can be used on the hob as well as in the oven, thus solving my problem of a tin / pan that can be used to complete both stages of the recipe. My only issue being how to handle it from one to the other! Another plus point is that metal utensils can also be used throughout the whole range of bakeware, and, since I’m not overly careful with my tins and suchlike for the oven, this is always good news. The tin is made from hard anodised aluminium and, according to the manufacturer, “ will benefit from seasoning.” Simply pour a layer of oil into the tin, put into a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, then allow to cool before discarding the oil, wiping the cookware, and drying.


So how did I find using it? Easy, although it was a little on the small side. I’m used to using 3 or 4 whole apples in the recipe, depending on their size, however, once I began to core and halve the apples horizontally, I worked out I couldn’t fit the ‘whole halves’ around the edge, so had to halve them again, thus creating quarters. In the end, I used 1.75 apples.

I placed the tin on my halogen hob and added calvados, sugar and vanilla pods and turned it to a medium heat.

Once bubbly and brown I added the apples and cooked til beginning to soften.

Then a few cubes of butter and finally, the puff pastry on top.


The pan didn’t slide or wobble at all and, remembering that hot caramel is, indeed, hot, and that the metal pan would also be very hot, I used a silicon glove-type grabber to hold the pan and transfer it to the oven.


Once the cooking had finished, I simply removed the tin and upturned it onto a plate. It was much easier doing this than trying to upturn a frying pan! Despite all the sticky caramel, the tarte came out easily in one piece and only a little of the pastry stuck. The tin was easily washed in warm water.


I was very pleased with the results of the tin, and the fact I could use metal tongues without worrying about scratching any coating. However, If you were to use this for a dinner party, you’d definitely need a bigger one. My husband will be pleased our tin is only small as he’s on a bit of a health kick at the moment and I’m banned from making anything tasty…sorry, unhealthy!



p.s. Can you tell I’ve got a new camera?!

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Cajun Chicken with Ginger Honey

A very good friend of mine served this when we went for dinner, many years ago, but it’s so delicious, I’ve never forgotten it! You can choose to make your own Cajun seasoning or simply buy a ready made dry spice mix, which is what I do as it’s so much easier. It was also another opportunity to use some of the new range of Manuka Honey from the New Zealand Honey Co. I wanted to add the ginger honey, instead of the usual plain old runny honey as it contains little nuggets of ginger which I thought would be a nice addition to the Cajun seasoning.


It’s simply a case of sprinkling the seasoning over chicken breasts, according to taste, then spooning some honey over the top and roasting until the chicken is cooked. Easy-peasy and perfect for a ‘school night’, when you really’ can’t be bothered to do anything more complex. I serve it with brown rice and spinach as these become much tastier when they’ve soaked up some of the spicy sweet sauce. This was also a test for my Great British Bakewear Roaster, what with sticky and burnt on honey. After a very short soak in hot water and washing up liquid, however, it came out perfectly clean…again!  This is quickly become a firm favourite.


Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest

Sunday 23 September 2012

The Ultimate Manuka Honey, Ginger and Lemon Zinger

When the OH awoke and declared he felt dreadful, it seemed like the perfect time to try out this new range of Manuka Honey from the New Zealand Honey Co. To quote from their marketing material…

“New Zealand Honey Co, producers of 100% pure, authentic honey, has perked up its premium Manuka honey with the addition of lemon and root ginger creating two new exciting honey options that are great for cooking with and must-have’s on anyone’s shopping list this year.

So much more than a sugary sweetener, the new Manuka Honey with Lemon and Manuka Honey with Root Ginger not only taste great but are brilliant functional foods, which provide a number of health benefits, helping you to put a spring in your step! The Manuka Honey with Lemon, with its delicious zesty zing, is packed full of Vitamin C and adds a whole new element to the honey – making it the perfect ingredient for salads and desserts. Smooth and fresh, the honey is also great when added to smoothies and juices, for an extra healing health kick!

Ginger, a store cupboard essential for any food lover - has been used to create New Zealand Honey Co’s deliciously different Manuka Honey and Ginger.”

I simply added a heaped teaspoon of each of the honeys, a splash or orange juice and squeeze of lemon to a cup of hot water (note: in his favourite cup…I think this might have made all the difference!). After tasting simply a spoonful of the honey, the OH declared he felt better already, but enjoyed the drink nonetheless! I think this will definitely become a favourite in our house during times of colds and sore throats!


On an entirely different note, I’m hoping to use the ginger honey next in a Cajun honey chicken recipe served with spinach and mash. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Both honeys have a RRP of £9.99 and are available from Morrisons. For further information on New Zealand Honey Company and honeys visit .

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

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