Saturday, 29 September 2012

Paella People!

I was so pleased to be invited back to La Tasca in  Renfield Street Glasgow.  I was last there in March and enjoyed tasting the tapas and meeting up with other Scottish food bloggers, you can read about it here.  This time I was invited to a Paella evening and to try the new autumn menu dishes. 

When we arrived there was the opportunity to try some of wines on offer at La Tasca, to accompany the wine we had jamon, anchovies and Manchego cheese.  The cheese was particularly good.

Our host for the evening was Executive Chef Antiono Bennetto.  Antiono started his career in restaurants and hotel kitchens, but soon moved to food development, working for food producers and supermarkets, he then moved into development for big brand restaurants.  Antonio travels frequently to Spain to meet local chefs and find out as much as possible about the traditional dishes and techniques of Spanish cookery.

His most recent visits have been to Valencia to research paella.  Paella from Valencia traditionally contains rabbit and snails,  and the paella would also be cooked in a very thin layer without much fish or meat.  However, Antonio's job is to take traditional dishes and adapt them for mainstream British tastes.  It was interesting to hear that, while 'bone in' chicken thighs would have more taste, they are higher in fat, so chicken breast is used.  La Tasca also have their own recipe chorizo which is made in Spain for them and contains less fat and less salt than the traditional recipe.
Digital Kit: Amy Stoffel, La Cucina

I had so many photographs of the paella making that I decided to make a digital layout of the process. It was interesting to see the way the paella was made,  the chicken, squid and prawns were all added before the rice and yet they did not seem to suffer from a longer cooking.  The correct type of rice is very important, La Tasca use Bomba rice, which absorbs three times the quantity of liquid as compared to twice the liquid for most other rice varieties.



I loved the way the rice was added to pan in a cross then Thomas, the chef, drew the rice into the stock evenly using the quadrants to guide him.  This ensured that the rice was distributed evenly which is very important because we then learned that you do not stir paella! 

While the paella was cooking it was time to taste the new dishes on the autumn menu.  I'm hoping that I have got them right, apologies if I have mis-named them.

CHORIZO & MORCILLA (CASTILLA Y LEÓN) £4.95

Spanish black pudding and chorizo cooked with fire roast peppers, basil and onion. 
This was probably my favourite of the new dishes, at first I thought 'what big olives'!  However when I bit into the firm, slightly rubbery skin, I was delighted to find a soft and succulent mouthful of black pudding.  A mild, rather than spicy mixture, much softer then the Scottish kind of black pudding.  The combination with the chorizo, onions and peppers really worked well.


HOME-MADE BEEF BURGERS (CATALUÑA) £4.95

Two fresh mini home-made beef burgers with all the Spanish toppings.

The mini burgers really did taste homemade, no taste of fillers.  The caramelised onions were soft and full of flavour and the little buns were reminiscent of brioche.  I wouldn't have ordered burgers in a tapas bar but they were very good and a nice addition to the menu for conservative eaters and children.


SPICY ROASTED VEGETABLE CASSOLO WITH ALMOND (CASTILE LA MANCHA) £4.75 

Butternut squash, red onion, chickpeas, celeriac and cannellini beans in a winter warming spicy tomato sauce topped with crushed almonds and parsley.


This is a new vegetarian option at La Tasca, I can't say that it jumped out at me as a highlight of the meal, it seemed to blend in with the other tomato based dishes.


CROQUETAS DE MANCHEGO (TOLEDO) £4.35

Hand-crumbed with three-month-aged-Manchego cheese and fresh spinach, served with roasted garlic mayonnaise.

The Croquetas de Manchego did not disappoint, lovely crunchy outside and soft cheesy inside,  these are a must have on any tapas table.


HUEVOS CABREAOS (CATALUÑA) £3.25

Amazing Spanish take on egg and chips, needs to be cut before eating.

Somehow I missed this dish, so am not able to comment on it, I did see someone eating it and they seemed to be enjoying it!


Sadly my rural location (last train at 8.10pm) meant that I had to leave before the paella was ready to taste, so I have had to rely on my bloggie friends to tell me just how good it was!

Elaine (nearest) and Briony concentrating on the paella demonstration


It was good to meet Elaine from Fun as a Gran and Graham from A Scots Larder. Special thanks to Briony from The Glasgow Food Blog for sharing her photographs.

I was gutted that I didn't get to try the paella, I think I will have to make a trip to La Tasca just to have some, especially as the reports I got were that the flavour was incredible.

Many thanks to Ella for inviting me to La Tasca and also for the goodie bag.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Win a Tarte Tatin Tin from Mermaid

Remember my Tarte Tatin?  Well, those lovely people at Mermaid bakeware would like to help YOU to make our own Tarte Tatin by giving away one of these high quality hard anodised baking tins.
Mermaid has been known and loved by professional chefs and enthusiastic cooks alike since 1953 and is for many the secret ingredient when it comes to successful home cooking



Complete the Rafflecopter widget to win the Tarte Tatin tin, but just in case you are not the lucky winner, you can buy this tin 'on sale' at Amazon for £21.54  it will last you a lifetime and would work for pies as well as the Tarte Tatin.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tarte Tatin with Mermaid Bakeware

Not the greatest looking Tarte Tatin,  my nerve went on the caramel and I didn't let it cook for long enough to colour up properly.  It might not have had the full colour but it did have the sticky, sweet toffee apple taste.

I was inspired to make a Tarte Tatin because I was sent this Mermaid Hard Anodised Aluminium Tarte Tatin Tin to review, it's the perfect shape and size to make the famous upside down Apple Tart.  It's also extremely strong and hard wearing, I was able to put it on the stove top to make the caramel and  there was no buckling and no hot spots.  The Tarte Tatin dish retails for around £27 but is currently on sale on Amazon for £21.54

Tarte Tatin


8 eating apples
200g caster sugar
50g butter
375g all butter puff pastry (I used Tesco ready rolled)

1. Peel, core and halve the apples. Don't worry if they turn brown , it won't show in the finished tart.
2. Put the sugar in the base of the tin  with 50ml water, then melt the sugar slowly over a low heat, stirring.
3. Once the sugar has melted, turn up the heat and bubble for 5 minutes or so to give a golden  caramel.  You are looking for a rich reddy brown, but be careful it doesn't burn.
4. Take the caramel off the heat immediately and stir in the butter which will foam up.
5. Arrange the apple halves on top, cut side up, so they fill the pan, slice any left over apple pieces and fill in the gaps.

6. Put the pan back on a gentle heat and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let the apples cool completely.
7. Heat the oven to 200C/Gas 7.  Roll out the pastry, then lay over the cooled apples in the pan.  Trim the pastry using the edge of the pan as a guide, then tuck it inside the edge around the apple, making sure they don't move.

8.  Bake for 30 minutes until dark golden and puffed.  Remove from the oven, stand for 5 minutes, then carefully turn the tart onto a serving plate.


I'll definitely be making another Tarte Tatin and try to get that dark mahogany coloured caramel.  The tin would also be excellent for other pies, whether upside down or right way up!

Many thanks to Ria, Sarah and Emma for sending me the bakeware to review, although I was supplied with the Tarte Tatin tin to review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Berry Compote


Today was a beautiful sunny day.  The day started very cold with a hint of ground frost, but as the sun gathered strength it felt warmer than many of the days we have had this summer.  I was beginning to despair of picking any blackberries as we don't seem to have had two dry days together, but  this afternoon I managed to gather a reasonable quantity and I can see that there are many more to come, if the weather is kind to us.

I wanted to serve the berries with some kind of cake and decided that this was  a good opportunity to find a recipe for the combined challenge from Dom (Belleau Kitchen):  Random Recipes and  Karen (Lavender and Lovage) and Kate (What Kate Baked): Tea Time Treats, the result is  Tea Time Random Recipes


For my Random Recipe I decided to pick the two 'Little Book of Treats' that Susan, from A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate ,sent to me.  Both Susan and Karen have fabulous recipes featured in the 2012 edition of the book, which is sold at M&S Cafes in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.


  With the World's Biggest Coffee Morning only a few days away, this seemed like a great chance to use one of these books.  In the end I chose the 2011 book, mainly because I didn't want to publish a recipe from this year's book.  So much for a Random choice of book!  I did randomly pick the recipe though, the book fell open at the stapes in the centre to reveal....




I was delighted to see that the recipe I'd chosen was for Lemon Drizzle Cake, both because it would work perfectly with the Berry Compote and also because I could try out the George Wilkinson Great British Bakeware, 1lb loaf tin.  I've never had a 1lb loaf tin, always used a 2 or 3lb tin.  The recipe was for a 2lb loaf tin, so I halved the quantities in the recipe, and it worked perfectly.



My Favourite Lemon Drizzle Cake by Michael Mann (Little Book of Treats 2011)


110g/4oz butter or margarine (I used Pure, Sunflower spread)
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
110g/4oz self-raising flour

Drizzle
Juice of 1 lemon
40g/1 1/2oz caster sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 10C/fan 160C/gas mark 4.  Grease and line a 450g/1lb loaf tin (I decided not to line and grease to test the Glidex non-stick on the George Wilkinson tin)
2. Beat the butter or margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Slowly add the eggs.  Sift the flour, add the lemon zest and fold gently until mixed.
3. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a thin skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the cake's centre.
4. Leave the cake to cool a little in it's tin. Mix the lemon juice and sugar together.  Prick the warm cake all over with a fork or skewer, then pour over the drizzle.  Leave in tin until completely cool.


The cake baked perfectly with a nice little crack on the top.  Once it had sucked up all the lemon and sugar drizzle and cooled down, I removed it from the tin.  I was a bit worried that the sticky lemon drizzle would cause problems getting it out of the tin, but it came out pretty easily.  I only had to ease it round the edges with a palette knife and out it came.

It also sliced very well, even when still slightly warm.  

Berry Compote

1 punnet strawberries (I used 'value' strawberries from the supermarket, they were ideal for this type of compote)
Approximately half the quantity of blackberries to strawberries
2 dessert spoons of sugar
A splash of water

1.  Gently heat the blackberries with the sugar and water until the juices start to run but the berries still hold their shape and colour.  Remove from heat and leave to cool a little.
2. Hull the strawberries and half or quarter depending on size, place in a serving bowl.
3. Pour the blackberry compote onto the strawberries while still warm as this will draw the juices from the strawberries.
4. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool completely.  

Serve the Lemon Drizzle Cake with the Berry Compote and either Greek yogurt, cream or ice cream according to your preference.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

All the Tea from China

 I can remember drinking Earl Grey with my Mum when I was in my teens and also asking for a pot of chinese tea to drink with a chinese meal we ate on holiday in Torquay.  The first gift my husband gave me was a tin of Gunpowder Green Chinese Tea, so you can see that tea is something I am quite passionate about.


TeaVivre is a company run by a group of tea lovers and aficionados from China, Canada and France, who all share a passion for drinking great tea and appreciate the healthy life style it brings.  They all live in China, and frequently travel through the country visiting China's tea plantations so they can track down only truly exceptional teas.  As a result TeaVivre are able to bring to us the absolute highest quality Chinese teas that are, wherever possible, 100% organically grown and produced.

 I chose to review the green tea sample pack and the black tea sample pack

The green tea sample pack contains two of each of the following teas, beautifully packaged in individual foil sachets inside a larger sealed foil package:

Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea
Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng Green Tea
Organic Hangzhou Tian Mu Qing Ding Green Tea
Superfine Pre-Ming Dragon Well Long Jing Tea
Premium Jasmine Dragon Pearls Green Tea

I tasted the Premium Jasmine Dragon Pearls Green Tea, it had a light clean flavour with just a hint of jasmine, no overpowering floral taste that you can get with some jasmine teas.  I drink my tea black and not strongly brewed, so really enjoyed this delicately flavoured tea.  Here is how TeaVivre describe the tea:

Jasmine “Dragon Pearls” is a deliciously sweet green tea that combines the absolute highest quality green tea with a jasmine aroma and taste. Made from one unopened bud and one small leaf, this tea hand rolled into small balls, which slowly unfurl during brewing, releasing an amazing taste and aroma combination of green tea and sweet jasmine. Brewing a cup of this sweet, fragrant tea only requires a few tiny pearls!


The Black Tea sample pack contains the following teas:

Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea – Golden Tip
Fengqing Dragon Pearl Black Tea
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea
Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea
Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea (Yan Xun Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong)

I am not a huge fan of Lapsang Souchong tea as I usually find it rather overpowering but, after enjoying the Jasmine tea, I thought I would see what the TeaVivre Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea was like. It was a nice surprise to find that the smoky flavour was subtle and the tea had a clean taste, without any real bitterness.  Here is what is said about this tea on the website:

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (Lapsang Souchong) used pine wood or pine charcoal from Tongmu kuan in Wuyi mountain as materials. Because black tea has a strong capability of absorption, while pine charcoal will release plenty of smoke when burning. So the Lapsang Souchong, produced by hands and machines, has a heavy flavor of smoked and pine, which is suitable for people who prefer strong flavor.

I'm looking forward to trying more of the tea samples and reviving my taste for exotic tea.  TeaVivre ships to the UK, be sure to change the currency indicator, in the top right of the web page, to GBP to see the prices in sterling.   The Green Tea Assortment costs £7.40 and the Black Tea Assortment is £6.50, shipping costs depend on the weight of the parcel, but start at £2.70.  This might seem expensive but given the outstanding quality of the tea and the fact that you could easily pay that for a bottle of wine, it is really not such a high price to pay. I think any of these teas would be the ideal gift for a tea connoisseur. 

Disclaimer: I was supplied with the Black and Green Tea Assortments by TeaVivre..  I was not required to write a positive review and any opinion expressed is my own..

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes - Reviews and Challenges

I love a nice sweet pineapple, even though they are available all year round in the supermarkets, they still seem rather exotic.  I've never had any difficulty in peeling and cutting a pineapple but was  intrigued when I was sent an OXO Good Grips Pineapple Slicer to review.

I decided that the best way to show you how it works would be to make a video and post it on here.  When I uploaded it to You Tube, I came across a professional 'how to' video created by OXO Good Grips.  I've decided to post both of them, so that you can see me reading the instructions and cutting a pineapple for the first time/  This was going to have to be 'one take' because I only had one pineapple, so I was concentrating on reading the instructions and cutting the pineapple and didn't realise, until my husband started laughing, that some of it could be interpreted as a bit rude!   Anyway here is my version:


And here is how you should really cut your pineapple...


I'm hoping I will get better with practise, now that I understand how the slicer works!

 Here is the slightly mangled pineapple, oh boy was there lot of juice.

At the same time, I was asked to try this 12 cup deep Glidex Muffin Tray from Great British Bakeware by George Wilkinson The tins are ceramic reinforced and triple coated with superior non-stick, dishwasher safe and they even state that they are safe for metal tools.  I liked the weightiness of the tin and the cups are a good size and, very importantly,  they are British made, in Lancashire.

The best way to test the tin was to make some muffins or cupcakes and I thought I'd bake some cupcakes that included pineapple, so what better than a combination of pineapple, rum and coconut. The Glidex Bakeware performed extremely well, I will try it without paper cases next time, perhaps with some savoury muffins to test out the non-stick coating.

Pina Colada Cup Cakes

 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
150g (5oz) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
250g (9oz) caster sugar
2 large eggs
50ml crushed pineapple
75ml (4fl oz) Coconut yogurt (I used Rachel's)
1/2 tsp of rum or rum essence

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake cases.
2. In a bowl, combine the flours and set aside
3. In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy and smooth. Add the sugar gradually, beating after each addition.
4. Add the flour in three stages, alternating with the milk and rum.  Beat until the ingredients are combined and well blended.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling about 2/3 full. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes. Remove from the tin to a cooling tray and cool completely before icing.


Cream Cheese Frosting


25g (1oz) white chocolate, broken into pieces
100g (7oz) cream cheese, softened
50g (2oz) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp rum or rum essence
250g (8oz) icing sugar (sifted)

1. Put the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl that fits over a pan of very gently simmering water, allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Mix in the white chocolate and rum or rum extract.
3. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until the mixture is fluffy.
4. Spread the mixture over the cupcakes with a palette knife.

To decorate
1. Toast about 50g (2oz) of dessicated coconut in a dry pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently and watching carefully so it doesn't burn.  Leave to cool.
2. Sprinkle the coconut over the cream cheese frosting and place small wedges of pineapple on top.


At first I was a little disappointed in these cupcakes, the cake seemed a bit cloying and stuck to the roof of your mouth.  However, if you can be patient,  they keep incredibly well, in an airtight plastic box in the fridge and improved quite dramatically after a couple of days. 

We should Cocoa is 2 years old and celebrating with Cocktail inspired chocolate creations. The challenge is run by Choclette at The Chocolate Log Blog and Chele at Chocolate Teapot. I'm entering the Pina Colada Cupcakes with their little bit of white chocolate in the frosting.

The Calendar Cakes challenge from Dolly Bakes and Laura Love Cakes is  celebrating National Cupcake week and apparently  'Caketails' are the latest cupcake craze, who says I'm crazy?

And just to round things off, the letter for Alpha Bakes, hosted this month by Caroline Makes, alternately with The More Than Occasional Baker this month is 'P' which gives me a hat trick of cakey challenges.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Food Photography Workshop

Chapter Five - Food Bloggers and the Photography Workshop

Good photographs are essential for a successful food blog, so the Food Photography session at the Taste of Ayrshire Food Bloggers Conference was eagerly anticipated.

Darren McKean of Fiona McKean Photography took us through a rough guide to the equipment that would help us take better photographs.  These included covering a piece of card with tin foil or using a piece of white polystyrene as a light reflector as you can see in the photograph above, and yes, that is me!  Thanks to Louise at Please Do Not Feed the Animals for sharing her photograph with me.

Here are a few of the other tips that Darren shared with us:

  • When food styling use the colour wheel to find opposite colours.  There are online versions such as colourschemedesigner.com which can can help you choose good colour combinations.
  • Keep a styling box with a variety of boards, plates, cutlery.  Bargains can be found in supermarkets, charity shops and £1 shops.
  • When taking photos of food where you have wet or sticky hands, wrap your camera in cling film 

Darren tried hard to explain camera settings to us and I picked up the following:
  • Use ISO 1600 or above for indoor shots
  • Aperture = depth of field, the higher the number the greater the depth of field
Probably the most important tip that I learned from the session was to get the shoot area, your props and your camera set up, then prep your food, do a test shoot, then finally the food shoot.

This is the final chapter from the Food Bloggers Conference, many thanks to Lisa Tennant of Taste of Ayrshire for organising the event, to Ayr Racecourse for hosting and to all the contributors who were generous with their time and talents. I really enjoyed meeting the bloggers with special thanks to Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes and Louise from Please Do Not Feed the Animals for sharing their photographs with me.

Goodie Bag
Focus on the oatcakes

Focus on the cheese
Thanks also for the goodie bag containing a piece of Barwheys Fine Ayrshire Cheese, it was just as cheese should be, sharp and tangy.  To complement the cheese was a pack of Wooleys Traditional Oven Baked Arran Oatcakes, a firm and well fired oatcake I really enjoyed.  My husband was particularly impressed by the Threepwood Fayre, Orange and Lime Fondant Creams.

If you have missed the other posts from the conference you can find them here:
Chapter 1 - Sustainability, Seasonality and Ethical Purchasing
Chapter 2 - Food Bloggers do Social Networking
Chapter 3 - Food Bloggers go to Ayr Races
Chapter 4 - How to improve your blog writing

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Omelette Arnold Bennet for Best of British - London

The Best of British Challenge  has moved on, it started in Cornwall at the Chocolate Log Blog, then I took over here on Farmersgirl Kitchen with the Scottish challenge, last month Yorkshire was the county of choice over at Lavender and Lovage.  I didn't have any trouble thinking of recipes for the last three, but when Fiona at London Unattached announced that she was hosting for 'London' I was really stumped as to what to make.

I toyed with 'London Particular' a yellow split pea soup which is supposed to resemble the fog known as a London Pea Souper.  Then I thought I might make bagels after learning about the long tradition of bagel-making in the east end of London. In the end, I stumbled across a recipe for Omelette Arnold Bennet and I knew I had found my London entry to the Best of British Challenge.



The Omelette Arnold Bennet was created by the chefs at the Savoy Hotel in London for the writer Arnold Bennett, he loved it so much he insisted on it being made for him wherever he travelled. It's still on the menu  at the Savoy to this day.

Omelette Arnold Bennet (Serves 2)

This is a lower fat recipe using a cornflour based sauce rather than the traditional bechamel

Ingredients
200g smoked haddock (I could only get dyed smoked haddock but, for preference I would choose undyed)
200ml semi-skimmed milk
15g cornflour
25g parmesan cheese, grated
5 eggs (separate white and yolk from one egg)
10g butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the fish in the milk and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Remove the fish to another dish.

2. Mix the cornflour with a little cold milk  and pour the warm milk from the pan into the bowl.  Mix well and return to the pan, cooking through until thickened, add half the grated parmesan, season and stir in the yolk from the separated egg. Leave to cool.

3. Beat the white from the separated egg in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks and set aside.
4. In another bowl, beat the 4 whole eggs.
5. Break the haddock into large flakes.

6. Heat the butter in an omelette pan.  When it is frothing, but not browned, stir in the haddock and pour in the beaten eggs.  Stir the mixture then cook for a minute over a medium heat.  The top should remain moist with liquid egg in the centre.

7. Stir the stiffly beaten egg white into the Parmesan sauce and spread the sauce on top of the mixture.
8. Then put the pan under a pre-heated grill.  After about half a minute sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top and grill for another minute until the surface is spotted with brown.  Slide the omelette from the pan to a warmed serving plate.  Do not fold the omelette.



It's not the most photogenic of dishes, but we enjoyed the different textures of the layers and the salty, tangy flavours of the smoked fish and parmesan cheese pefectly offset by the eggs.  We raised a glass to Arnold Bennet and the chefs of the Savoy Hotel, for introducing us to this exceptional omelette.

The challenge ends on 23rd September, so there is still time to enter, find out more about the challenge and the prizes visiting London Unattached - Best of British

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