Carrot Cake Cookies – May’s BakedIn Baking Club Box

I haven’t blogged about BakedIn Baking Club kits for a while. That was because some people had read the posts expecting to be given the recipes to recreate the bakes themselves. These recipes are exclusively created with and approved by Michel Roux OBE, one of the world’s top pastry chefs, especially for BakedIn. Obviously then it would be very wrong of me to share the actual recipes. These recipe kits used to only be available to members of the BakedIn Baking Club as part of a monthly subscription. Now though, BakedIn have decided to sell the kits to anyone who wants to give them a try. So now I feel I can comfortably blog about them without people being upset at not having the recipes. If you like the look of the recipe, you can now buy the kit yourself! Brilliant news! The only catch though is you only have a month to buy it. The Baking Club kit is sold as the BakedIn Bake of the Month, so is only available until the next month’s box is sent (or until it is sold out, whichever comes first).

In case you don’t know about the BakedIn Baking Club, it is one of the best subscription boxes you will ever find. Each month you are sent all the dry ingredients you need for that bake, as well as extra bits and pieces like baking paper, piping bags, testing skewers, butter measures, and of course a very beautifully presented recipe card with colour photographs of each stage of the recipe. You just need to add a couple of fresh ingredients such as eggs, butter or cream. The recipes are great to make with children, and are perfect for any skill level. Any tricky processes are clearly described, making them achievable by everyone. The thing I love most is the range of recipes they come up with. You might have baked something similar before, but the BakedIn recipes are always so much better! For example, last month was a tea loaf, something I bake a lot, but I have never had one anywhere that has tasted as delicious as their recipe did. The beauty about having these kits is that you then have the recipe forever to make again and again. All this costs £8 if you pay per month with postage included in the price, or £7 per month if you pay in 6 monthly chunks. That is a fantastic price for everything you get!

So on to this month’s bake, carrot cake cookies. This recipe is my favourite BakedIn recipe ever! In fact it is so delicious I made it twice in as many days! I adore carrot cake so knew I would love these. They exceeded my expectations by miles though. My Other half isn’t a massive carrot cake fan but he adores these cookies! Absolutely scrumptious cookies, crunchy around the outside, soft and chewy inside, topped with an amazing cream cheese icing. I have made carrot cake flapjacks before (see the recipe for those HERE) but these cookies are my new favourites. (Incidentally, if you want the very best carrot cake recipe my lovely Twitter friend @zoetcm has an amazing recipe on her blog HERE).

The carrot cake cookies are one of the easiest recipes we have had in the Baking Club. There is literally nothing that can go wrong with these, unless of course you forget to turn your oven on or forget you have them baking!!! They are a nice quick bake so perfect for when you have unexpected guests and want to give them something super scrummilicious. They are also ideal for lunchboxes and picnics. And as I discovered, they are great at getting rid of midnight munchies! (Yes I did sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to have one hehe).

I used an ice cream scoop to place my mixture on to the baking trays as I wanted them to all be a similar size. That worked really well. I didn’t flatten them too much as I like chunky cookies. When they had cooled I piped some cream cheese icing on them but had loads left over so went back over them with more.

You can never have too much cream cheese icing! The second time I made them, I added a few drops of orange extract to the icing and that tasted amazing too. The orange really went well with the carrot cake flavours in the cookies. I shall be making these yet again today, that is how much we all love them! The recipe makes 12 cookies but they are so addictively moreish they disappear rapidly!

 

If you would like to make these cookies too and have a wonderful recipe to add to your repertoire, you can buy this box as a one-off kit HERE, but be quick… this recipe will only be available until Mid June 2018, or sooner if they all sell out. The box costs £8 plus postage.

If you would like to join the Baking Club and receive the monthly recipes with free postage, click HERE. You will be able to choose whether to pay monthly, 3 monthly, or 6 monthly.

Happy Baking!

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“Practical Herbs” Tea Tour – Some Herbal Tea Recipes and Their Benefits, Including Relief From Hayfever

I was recently lucky enough to be sent a fantastic book called “Practical Herbs 1” written by the Finnish herbalist Henriette Kress. This book, as well as “Practical Herbs 2”, has just been published by AEON Books, priced at £19.99 each.

The books are packed with information about identifying herbs when foraging, how to pick them, how to dry and store them, and all the different ways you can use them and what benefits they give to your health and wellbeing. I have to say I was completely engrossed! I actively look for natural remedies for ailments that sometimes come my (or my family’s) way, so was very impressed to see that there were plenty of remedies included that were for problems we have experienced.

As today is National Tea Day I was asked to specifically try one of the tea recipes included and share my thoughts on it. I decided to try 3 different ones as they sounded like they would help to sort me out with a few little niggly issues.

ROSES

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a bit obsessed with roses, their beautiful appearance, their wonderful fragrance, and their sweet heavenly taste. I was over the moon to see roses featured in Practical Herbs 1. There are lots of new ideas of ways to use roses that I had never heard of, but will definitely be making! Rose petal elixir to calm nerves, rose honey paste to soothe sore throats and lift your spirits, rose beads for when you need to feel special and calm… the list goes on. There are a few different tea recipes for roses but I decided to try the Rose Petal Tea, as I have a permanent supply of dried rose petals in my cupboard. You can use dried or fresh petals for this recipe.

Obviously you can’t just use any roses, as most shop-bought ones have been sprayed with various nasties to get rid of pests and to help them bloom. If you grow your own in the garden and haven’t used any chemicals on them, they should be fine to use. The book does state though that many hybrid roses we grow in our gardens have no scent, and these are not suitable. You need roses with a beautiful strong fragrance. Alternatively you could buy dried edible rose petals, but again they must be fragrant.

 

ROSE PETAL TEA

1 tsp dried rose petals, or 2 tsps crushed fresh petals

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour the boiling water over the rose petals, steep for 10 minutes and then strain.
  • Drink 1-3 cups a day.

Rose petal tea is a relaxing tea that lifts your mood. It also helps to ease menstrual cramps and mild stomach cramps. if you let it go cold, you can also use it as a face wash!

This tea really did lift my spirits. The wonderful aroma and the sweet rose taste are enough to clear any clouds away. I loved this tea and have been drinking a cup every day.

 

RED RASPBERRY 

I always knew raspberry leaf tea was great for women near the end of pregnancy as it helps to strengthen pelvic organs and is packed with minerals. I didn’t know though that it is a fantastic tea for women in general. The book says that it can help to sort out many menstrual problems, such as pain, frequency, and amounts. I was most interested in it though for another purpose. For reasons unknown to anyone, in all the years I have been having cervical smear tests I have only ever had 1 result come back with no issues. This means I have to have tests every year, and it tends to be at least 2 a year. No one enjoys having them but they are vital to detect any early signs of problems, so we all go through them. As I am typing this, I have a letter to my side inviting me for another smear test as my last one a few weeks ago was inadequate. Henriette Kress says in this book that Red Raspberry Leaf tea is great for women with cervical issues. She states that if a smear test result comes back with problems, drinking this tea for a few weeks can often mean the next result comes back clear! (Obviously this isn’t saying it is a cure for cancer, so please don’t read it as such. There are a whole host of issues that can cause problematic smear results). Needless to say I am drinking this tea twice a day until my next test so fingers crossed!

You can make a tea out of the berries, but that helps to ease a fever. I used the raspberry leaf recipe which is why the tea doesn’t look red.

 

RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA

1 tsp dried red raspberry leaves, or 2 tsps fresh leaves

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 10 minutes.
  • Strain through a coffee filter.
  • Drink 2-3 cups a day for several weeks for full benefit.

Henriette explains that the undersides of red raspberry leaves are covered in tiny spines that can irritate mucuous membranes if swallowed, which is why you must strain this tea through a coffee filter to remove them.

I quite liked the taste of this tea. It is hard to explain what it tastes like but I found it to be quite pleasant. It certainly doesn’t bother me drinking 2 cups of this a day.

 

STINGING NETTLE

The final tea I tried was made with stinging nettles. I chose to try this one as it is the best one for a condition I suffer from terribly every year… hayfever! I love Spring and Summer but I dread the puffy eyes and streaming nose that come with it. Flowers don’t bother me, it is grass and tree pollen that cause me problems. Some people who have drank nettle tea from Spring to Autumn have been able to come off hayfever medication altogether! I hate taking tablets so a natural remedy for a problem I have suffered from since childhood sounds perfect.

Stinging nettles have a huge amount of benefits. I won’t list them all here as the book takes a few pages to cover them all, with each needing different parts of the nettles. As well as recipes to eat and drink, the book also tells you how they can be used in your garden as a fertiliser, a pest repellent, and a compost starter; and as part of your beauty routine by using as a hair conditioner and a softening footbath! So many uses for one plant!

I bought dried stinging nettle leaves to make into a tea, but in the future will be picking some now I know what to look for and where is best to pick from.

 

NETTLE TEA

2-3 tsps dried nettle leaf, tops, or seed

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour boiling water over the nettles. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then strain.
  • Drink 2 to 3 cups a day.

I strained this one through a coffee filter too as it was quite powdery. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like my first taste of this tea. It tastes very very earthy and I didn’t like that. The store I bought the dried nettle from said that you can add some honey or any other natural sweetener if you don’t like the taste of this one. I added some honey and it made such a difference. I can happily drink 2 cups a day now. I’m hoping that doesn’t cut down the benefits that I am praying will come from it and keeping everything crossed for a sneeze-free Summer.

 

If you, like me, are trying to find natural remedies for problems, I would strongly recommend these books. I will be ordering Practical Herbs 2 on the strength of how informative and concise the first book is. Everything is explained in great detail to make sure you get the full benefits. The author has over 20 years experience of treating people with a range of conditions, and she takes care to pass her expert knowledge on in a clear, easily understandable way. The books are perfect for complete beginners to herbs and foraging, to advanced herbalists.

 

To find out more about Henriette Kress, visit her website HERE

To visit AEON Books and order Practical Herbs, click HERE

 

 

 

Cardamom Rice Pudding With Blackberry Layer and Pecan Crumble Topping

I love rice pudding. I’ll happily eat it hot or cold. It brings back so many lovely memories from childhood. The school I went to served it up as a pudding with a spoonful of chocolate curls on top, which was so yummy. At home I used to enjoy it with a dollop of jam dropped into the middle.

When Boddington’s Berries sent me some of their delicious Blackberry Conserve to try, I just knew it would be amazing in a rice pudding, but I wanted to make it an extra special dessert. I decided to combine two of my favourite puddings into one… crumble and rice pudding layered with some of this fruity conserve.

One of the things I love about Boddington’s Berries products is the high fruit content. In fact, for every 100g of conserve, 80g of that is fruit! That equates to the most wonderful fruity taste and texture. It is like eating a mouthful of juicy ripe blackberries! You could use a different fruit conserve if you prefer but I would highly recommend choosing a Boddington’s one as they are such high quality. And the very high fruit content means it is like eating a fruit crumble with rice pudding.

I added cardamom to the rice pudding as it is a flavour I love and it compliments the blackberries perfectly. You can buy ground cardamom but the flavour and aroma is much better if you buy green cardamom pods and grind the seeds yourself. (They are available in little jars in the herbs and spices section of all supermarkets). I love foods with lots of different textures too so added pecan nuts to the crumble topping for extra crunch. I usually bake rice pudding in the oven so it gets that delicious skin on top, but I didn’t want that for this recipe so cooked it on the hob. I wanted the crumble topping to be super crunchy so baked it on it’s own in the oven in a shallow baking pan. You can eat this dessert hot or cold. We ate ours cold and really really enjoyed it. I served it in small tumbler glasses and it made 4 full portions. I like serving cold desserts in glasses, and it is lovely to be able to see the individual layers that way. It is up to you how you layer the different components. I put a thin layer of crumble in the glass first, then rice pudding, followed by a layer of blackberry conserve, with more rice pudding on that, and topped with a final layer of crumble. You could arrange it however you prefer.

The crumble topping is so tasty I made double the amount and used the leftover over the course of a few days as a topping on ice cream and mixed in with yoghurt. (I might have sneakily eaten a little bit on it’s own too but no one saw me so that’s ok).

 

Cardamom Rice Pudding With Blackberry Layer and Pecan Crumble Topping

FOR THE CRUMBLE TOPPING:

90 g plain flour

45 g unsalted butter

30 g caster sugar

15 g demerara sugar

30 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

 

FOR THE RICE PUDDING:

100 g pudding rice

700 ml milk, plus an extra splash if desired

7 green cardamom pods

2 level tbsps caster sugar

 

4 tbsps Boddington’s Berries Blackberry Conserve

 

TO MAKE THE CRUMBLE TOPPING:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan.
  • Place the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles crumbs. (Or you can blitz it in a food processor).
  • Stir in the sugars and pecans until evenly distributed, then tip into a shallow baking pan and spread it all out so the layer is as thin as possible.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. (It will go even crunchier as it cools).
  • Leave to one side until needed.

 

TO MAKE THE CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING:

  • Press the cardamom pods to make them split open, then remove the seeds from inside. Use a pestle and mortar to grind the seeds as finely as possible.
  • Place the rice, milk, sugar and cardamom into a large saucepan and stir. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, then quickly reduce the heat so it doesn’t bubble over! Cover, then simmer on a low heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  • Taste a bit of the rice to make sure it is soft. If it is, remove from the heat. If not leave for a further 5-10 minutes.

 

TO ASSEMBLE:

  • The rice will thicken as it cools, so add an extra splash of milk if needed to loosen it up a bit.
  • Stir the Blackberry Conserve in a small bowl to make it easier to spread out.
  • Place a layer of crumble mixture in the bottom of each glass, then add a thick layer of rice pudding to half fill the glass. Spread a tablespoonful of conserve on top of the rice, then add more rice and finish with a golden layer of crumble topping.
  • Enjoy!

As I said before, you can enjoy this dessert hot or cold. If you are serving it hot though, make sure it is not boiling hot or else your glass might shatter! I know I said it is good to have lots of different textures but glass splinters do not count!!!

To see the full range of delicious conserves that Boddington’s Berries has to offer, CLICK HERE to go to their website.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received the Blackberry Conserve for free in exchange for a recipe idea. I only feature products on my blog that I genuinely would recommend, and all my views are my own honest opinions. 

 

 

Coffee Fudge Cake with a Versatile Coffee Fudge Icing

I absolutely love coffee cake. I don’t make it as often as I’d like though as I tend to bake cakes that everyone in my house will eat, and my son detests coffee! Luckily for me, it is a good friend’s favourite cake so I can make one and give her half of it. Sharing is caring, as they say. Whoever they are. But anyway, as I’m in a sharing kind of mood, I thought I’d share this scrumptious recipe with you. I don’t know where the recipe originally came from, but a friend gave it to me after I fell in love with the cake when she made it. She has a huge folder of recipes and this one was handwritten in there from about 20 years ago, so no idea where it is from.

This makes a delicious, fairly dense cake which is flavoured with Camp Coffee, a chicory and coffee essence. It tastes exactly like coffee though. I keep a bottle of Camp Coffee in my house just to make this cake as it is perfect for it. The cake is filled and topped with a coffee fudge icing which I could quite happily eat straight out of the bowl. The icing sets to a fudge-like consistency which is so irresistible. I top mine with chopped walnuts as coffee and walnut is such a classic combination, but you can leave the nuts out if you don’t like them.

As the cake is quite dense, it is ideal for baking in a bundt pan, as it will hold it’s shape beautifully. The icing would pour down over the bundt perfectly and then set in all the crevices. I do usually make it as a bundt but decided to do it in a normal cake tin this time, as not everyone has bundt pans in their cupboards.

A quick word about the icing… the longer you beat it, the thicker it becomes as it cools down. This is fine if you are spreading it on a normal cake. If you want to use it to pour it over a bundt though, you’ll need to beat it until it thickens slightly but is still fairly runny. It will start to firm up as it hits the cold cake, so you don’t want it too thick beforehand. Also, because it sets as it cools, do not make this until your cake is cool and you are ready to use it. It will just go too hard if you leave it on the side while your cake cools.

You could use the icing for many other things as well as this cake. It would be delicious poured warm over ice cream, although you wouldn’t need to make as much. You could use it as a layer in a chocolate and coffee tart or to top a traybake. You could use it as a filling for doughnuts. The list is endless. It is ideal for so many things as it sets so well. You could even let it firm up a bit and then roll into balls, flatten, cover in chocolate and there you have delicious coffee cream truffles!

 

COFFEE FUDGE CAKE

FOR THE CAKE:

170g unsalted butter, softened

170g soft light brown sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

2 tbsps Camp Coffee (or coffee essence)

170g self-raising flour, sifted

 

FOR THE ICING:

55g unsalted butter

110g soft light brown sugar

3 tbsps Camp Coffee (or coffee essence)

2 tbsps single cream

200g icing sugar, sifted

 

TO DECORATE (OPTIONAL):

50g chopped walnuts

 

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C conventional/ 160C Fan oven. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin, or 2 x 20cm sandwich tins. (I prefer to make it in one deep cake tin).
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and Camp Coffee/coffee essence. (If it looks like the mixture is starting to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour and continue mixing until it is smooth again).
  • Tip the flour in to the bowl and, using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold it in until it is all combined and there are no lumps of flour.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared tin(s). If baking it in one tin, bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until springy to touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If baking it in 2 tins, bake for around 20 minutes, or until springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin(s) for 5 minutes then turn out on to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • If you have used one tin, split your cake in half horizontally when it is cool.

TO MAKE THE ICING:

  • Place the butter, sugar, Camp Coffee/coffee essence and single cream into a saucepan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and gradually add the icing sugar, mixing well after each addition. Beat with a wooden spoon until all the lumps disappear and the mixture is smooth and silky.
  • Continue beating for about 2 minutes until the icing is thick enough to spread. Use immediately.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Pour half of the coffee icing on to it and spread all over evenly. Place the other cake layer on top, and pour the rest of the icing on top of this. Spread evenly to completely cover it. (If the icing is getting too thick, dip your palette knife or spatula in warm water to make the spreading easier).
  • While the icing is still wet, sprinkle the chopped walnuts over, if using.

 

I hope you love this as much as I do. If you like coffee, I think you’ll become a little bit addicted to the icing! Enjoy 🙂

 

Make Your Perfect Burger with myBURGERbox

A couple of months ago, I was excited to see on Twitter that a new monthly treat box was launching. One that made my mouth water just thinking about it. A gourmet burger treat box called myBURGERbox. I absolutely love burgers. Real burgers, not the cardboard-resembling type sold in certain fast food restaurants. I just had to sign up!

Tara, who is the genius behind the box, has a background in food and cooking and is passionate about supporting and promoting British independent and family businesses. She gets all of the meat she uses from small-scale farmers who put the welfare of their animals first, making sure they are naturally fed and free to roam, so you know that the products she sends are all of excellent quality.

I was really looking forward to receiving the first box in December. I hadn’t imagined how much would actually be included in the box though! Tara really thinks of everything you could possibly need to make the best ever burger! I signed up to the myBURGERbox for 2 people, and this is what I received:

  • 2 x 6oz Aberdeen Angus Prime Beef Burgers
  • 2 x sesame seed topped buns
  • 4 different cheeses – Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton, Extra Mature Cheddar, Cornish Brie, and Yorkshire Wensleydale with Cranberries
  • Denhay Dry Cured Bacon
  • 3 sauces – The Bay Tree Creamy Classic Mayonnaise, Prairie Fire BBQ Original Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce, and Hawkshead Relish Company Black Garlic Ketchup
  • Pea Shoots and Baby Leaves from Steve’s Leaves in Hampshire
  • Cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • Sliced red onion
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Extra snack goodies – Get Buzzing Banana Nut Free Flapjack, and 2 packs of Inka Snacks Gourmet Salted Roasted Giant Corn

There were also paper napkins and leaflets explaining where the various ingredients came from, which I thought was a wonderful idea.

The only thing the box doesn’t come with is instructions on how to make your burger. This is because burger preferences are so personal to each individual. Some people like to fry theirs, others grill them. Some like them pink and juicy, others prefer them well done. Some people like the cheese melted, others prefer it left as slices. Some people like the onions fried, others like them raw… it really is all down to your own choice. That applies to the order in which you stack your burger too. You can put it all together however you fancy.

If you’re interested in my preferences though, I cook my burgers and bacon in my George Foreman grill, until the burgers are just very slightly pink inside, and the bacon is crispy. I then top the burger with my cheese of choice, and place it under the grill for a moment to allow the cheese to melt. The first thing I place on my bun is the salad, tomatoes and any vegetables, but not the onion yet. On top of this goes the crispy bacon, and that gets smothered in whichever sauce I prefer. Then it’s the turn of the star of the show, the cheese-topped burger. And finally that gets topped with raw red onions, and of course the top of the bun.

There were more than enough ingredients for 2 burgers, and we even had some left over to use with other meals at a later date. The snacks were scrumptious, and I can honestly say the burger was phenomenal!

I really really love burgers but don’t like ordering them in restaurants as I don’t like eating “messy” food in public. Crazy I know but I get self-conscious eating things that bits might fall off, or which I’d have to take giant bites out of. If I ever do order a burger anywhere, I’ll be the one sat eating it with a knife and fork. Where’s the fun in that!? You need to get a mouthful of all the different parts together to really appreciate the taste, but I miss out on that in restaurants. This makes myBURGERbox extra special for me. I get to enjoy restaurant quality… actually no, BETTER than restaurant quality, burgers in the comfort of my own home, where I can pile them high and it doesn’t matter how much mess I get into. And they are cooked and served EXACTLY the way I like.

December’s box impressed me so much I ordered the next box too, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop it. January’s box was again jam-packed with wonderful products:

This one had

  • 2 x 6oz Sussex Limousin Beef Burgers from Conisbee Farm in Surrey
  • 4 rashers of dry cured back bacon, also from Conisbee Farm
  • 3 cheeses – Shropshire Blue from Long Clawson Dairy, Cornish Brie from Cornish Country Larder, and Keen’s Somerset Cheddar
  • 3 sauces – Great British Sauce Co. Proper Tomato Sauce, The Garlic Farm Onion Marmalade with Garlic, and PS Food Products Twisted Chilli Mayonnaise
  • 2 brioche buns
  • A salad box containing mixed leaves, sweet baby peppers, and an assortment of mini tomatoes
  • Sliced red onions
  • Sun-dried tomatoes and olives
  • Cranberry and cashew nut mix
  • 2 x Wildings Snacks Duck Crackling
  • 2 x Cut and Dried vegetable snacks

As you can tell from both boxes, only top quality artisan products are used so your burger will be amazingly good. My partner likes burgers, but they are not his meal of choice. He loved December’s though, and he said January’s was the best burger he had ever eaten in his entire life. His previous favourite had been one in America, but he said this beat that. In fact, he said that he would happily eat a burger for every meal for the rest of his life if they were all as good as the myBURGERbox ones. High praise indeed!

You can genuinely taste the quality in all of the ingredients, and it is wonderful to be able to try such a variety of accompaniments.

In case you are wondering how it all arrives on delivery day, Tara and her team make sure it all reaches you in tip-top condition. The meats are packed in boxes with ice packs and insulated sheets to keep them chilled:

They are sent via Royal Mail First Class post so you should receive them the next day after they are sent, but the ingredients will be perfectly fine in the box for up to 48 hours, in case for any reason there is a delay with Royal Mail. On both occasions the ingredients in my boxes were lovely and cold and ready to cook.

The boxes will always contain British burgers including some from rare and heritage breeds. They won’t always be beef though. In future boxes there will be lamb, venison, pork, and chicken, and for more adventurous people you’ll be able to try more unusual meats such as ostrich and goat. Bacon will nearly always be included too as it is so wonderful on burgers. There will always also be a selection of cheeses, sauces, toppings and salad leaves, as well as random extras from British artisan companies. The extra goodies so far have been delicious, and it has been great to discover brands I would not have otherwise heard about.

You can order myBURGERbox for one or two people, and for 1, 3 or 6 months. For one person it is £14.95, and for 2 it is £24.50. Postage is included in the price making these boxes fantastic value, especially when you look at the brands being used. Boxes are always shipped on the Thursday nearest the 11th of the month so you will get it on the Friday ready to enjoy over the weekend. The next box will be delivered on the 9th/10th February, and if you would like to try it you will need to order by the 4th of February. If you order after that date you will receive the March box instead, which will be delivered on the 9th/10th March.

To find out more or to place your order to try this superb box for yourself, CLICK HERE to go to their website. You can even order it as a gift for someone else! What a brilliant idea.

What ingredients would you need for your perfect burger? Let me know in the comments so I can drool over your suggestions too 🙂

Review of ‘Not Guilty’ by Chef Mick Élysée – including his scrumptious recipe for Plantain Pancakes

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to be part of the blog tour helping to promote Chef Mick Élysée’s new book, Not Guilty. I have to admit, until this tour I hadn’t heard of Mick (sorry), but I am so glad I have now been introduced to his recipes!

Before I tell you about the wonderful new book, let me tell you about Chef Mick Élysée, as his story is inspirational.

Mick grew up in the Republic of Congo, where he loved watching his mother cooking, and sneakily pinching food from the pot when she wasn’t looking. Sadly though, his happy life was soon to be turned upside down. In 1993, at the height of the Congolese Civil War, several of his family were killed. This meant that at the age of 14, Mick arrived in France as a refugee and had to adapt to a new life in an unfamiliar culture. He struggled academically, as he was not used to the French school system, but his passion for food shone through and gave him the strength to get through this traumatic time. He devoted his time to learning all about European cuisine, and in 1997 he was accepted into one of France’s most prestigious culinary schools. There, he began his classical training and worked under Michel Toulousi and Jean-Marc Desclaux. At the age of 22, just 8 years after arriving in France, Mick and his business partner opened a restaurant called La Gascogne, which received critical acclaim.

Today, Mick’s roots in the Congo play a huge part in his life. As well as the influence they have in his Afro-Fusion recipes, he is also passionate about giving back to the communities there. He regularly works with orphanages in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, and with a free school for children with physical and mental disabilities. He also provides cookery workshops for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as educational support to equip them with life skills. What a truly amazing man!

Mick’s long-awaited book Not Guilty was published just a few weeks ago. It features healthy African recipes including starters, snacks, main meals and desserts, as well as stocks to use as bases for other dishes. Every recipe has a beautiful vibrant photograph of the end result as well as step-by-step instructions on how to make them. The photographs are mouth-wateringly tempting, and I’m looking forward to making lots more of them in the near future. The book has encouraged me to look at ingredients I have never used before, and that really excites me. Exotic fruit and vegetables, and meats I have never eaten let alone cooked, this book takes you on a wonderful taste adventure.

I was tempted by lots of the recipes but decided to make the Plantain Pancakes for this review. This is the photograph in the book:

I had never eaten plantain until making these, and the recipe requires 1 very ripe plantain. As I was unfamiliar with cooking with plantain I did a bit of research so I could tell when one was ready to use. I had presumed they would be like bananas as they look so similar, but I was wrong! Plantains are used in both sweet and savoury cooking. Many savoury recipes require them to be very hard and not too ripe. In those cases it would be best to use plantains when the skin is still green. The riper the plantain, the sweeter it becomes. The shop where I bought mine sold them when they looked yellow. These are ripe, but not quite enough. I discovered that they can take weeks to fully ripen, unlike bananas which take a few days. I didn’t have weeks after I had bought mine so I read that you can ripen them quicker by placing them in a paper bag with an apple. The apple produces a gas which aids the process. I did this with one of the ones I bought, and it worked! The one in my main picture is nowhere near ripe enough, even though it is looking a bit blackened. A perfectly ripened plantain has a black skin which looks very slightly wrinkled. Imagine the look of a banana when it is too far gone to even use in recipes… that is how a very ripe plantain looks, and that is how it needs to be for this recipe. I used one like this in the pancake recipe.

To get the fruit out of the skin, simply slice each end off with a sharp knife and cut a slit from one end to the other. You can then easily peel the skin off in one go. Very ripe plantain is soft and a lovely yellowy-peachy colour inside. This means it is really easy to blend in recipes. And speaking of recipes, here is the pancake one for you to try too.

 

PLANTAIN PANCAKES

1 very ripe plantain

2 fresh eggs

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 tbsps semi-skimmed, or almond, or coconut milk

1/2 vanilla pod

150g strawberries, cut into chunks

2 tbsps honey

coconut oil, for frying (1 tsp per pancake + 1 tbsp for the topping)

 

  • Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, and then use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds out. Combine the plantain, eggs, cinnamon, milk and vanilla seeds, and blend together until you get a creamy paste. (I did this in a food processor by blending the plantain first until it was lump-free and creamy, then beating in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon).
  • Place a frying pan over a low heat, add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, and fry one pancake until the bottom is golden brown. Flip it over and cook until that side is golden too. Repeat until the mixture is all used up, using 1 teaspoon of coconut oil for each pancake.
  • Using the same frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Add the strawberries, stir quickly to coat them in the oil, then add the honey. Cook for 1 minute until the juice reduces slightly, then remove from the heat.
  • Place the pancakes on a serving plate, spoon the strawberries on top, and then finish with the honey sauce.

 

So what did I think of my very first plantain experience? I loved it! The coconut oil adds a wonderful flavour, and the strawberry honey sauce adds an extra hit of sweetness which is just divine. My honey sauce took on the colour of the strawberries and went a lovely shade of red, so it didn’t look like the photograph in the book but it still tasted amazing! I am looking forward to making more of Chef Mick Élysée’s delicious recipes very soon. His Jollof Quinoa and Roast Chicken, and his Papaya Tart recipes are next on my agenda from this book. Yum!

If you would like to find out more about Chef Mick Élysée and his new book, including where to buy it, you can find his website HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate and Baileys Cheesecake

I know we’re 9 days into 2018, but as this is my first post of the year I’ll take this chance to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

The year started badly for me, with all 3 of us getting flu. I’ve had bad colds before but this was my very first time getting flu. Not bad for 43 years, but it is definitely something I wouldn’t want again thank you very much! When I started to feel a bit better I decided to make my favourite CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS MOUSSE to cheer myself up. It looked yummy as always, but sadly I quickly discovered my taste buds had gone so I didn’t enjoy it. Yesterday I finally got my taste back so thought I would make it again as I missed out before, but when I went to my cupboard I realised I didn’t have enough gelatine. Not to be put off, I made a no-bake cheesecake based on it instead. Oh my word, it was soooo scrumptious! I absolutely love the mousse, but think the cheesecake is even better!

Literally anyone can make this, it is that easy, and no stage of it can go wrong, so you are guaranteed a delicious creamy dessert. The actual preparation is very quick too but it does need a few hours to firm up in the fridge. It can be made the day before you need it, in fact it is perfect if left in the fridge overnight. I had a slice of mine today as a mid-morning treat and it was even nicer than yesterday (and it was amazing yesterday)!

I like a thick biscuit layer on my cheesecakes, but if you prefer a thinner base just use reduce the ingredient quantities that I used. Or, rather than just pressing them on the bottom of the pan like I did, spread them up the sides too and press firmly into place. The advantage of the thick biscuit layer though (don’t judge me for this, I’m only human hehe) is that you can eat a piece of it on the go! Most of the time I am civilised and eat cheesecake with a spoon or dessert fork, but sometimes, just sometimes, I really really want some but am in a rush or busy with a million things to do. So it is perfect to be able to cut a piece and pick it up to eat it just like a piece of cake! Ok I’m a savage, but I’m ok with that 🙂

 

CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS CHEESECAKE

FOR THE BASE

250 g digestive biscuits (which is 17 McVities ones)

110 g unsalted butter, melted

 

FOR THE CHEESECAKE TOPPING

460 g full-fat cream cheese

75 g icing sugar, sifted

220 ml double cream

3 tbsps Baileys

3 Cadbury Flake bars

 

FOR THE DECORATION

150 ml double cream

1 tbsp Baileys

1 Cadbury Flake bar

 

  • BISCUIT BASE: Line a 20cm cake pan (springform is best for cheesecakes for easy removal) with foil. Completely cover the inside of the pan, pressing the foil down well to get rid of large creases.
  • Place the digestive biscuits in a food processor and blitz until the biscuits have turned into small crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits in a ziplock bag, press the bag to remove any air before closing, and bash them with something like a rolling pin until you have small crumbs.
  • Add the melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and mix well. Tip the crumb mixture into the foil-lined pan, spread the crumbs to cover the base, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Make sure you go right up to the edges. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • CHEESECAKE TOPPING: Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until it is smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar and mix well.
  • In another bowl, whisk the 220 ml double cream until it is quite firm and thick.
  • Add the whisked cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold them together, using a spatula or large spoon.
  • Add the Baileys and continue folding the mixture until it is well combined and smooth. (It will be lovely and thick but with no lumps).
  • While the Flake bars are still in their packets, use your fingers to roughly crush them up. You want to make a mix of sizes of chunks so don’t overdo it. Tip the chocolate into the cheesecake mixture and fold in gently until evenly distributed.
  • Spoon the cheesecake mixture on to the chilled biscuit base and use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly up to the edges. Place the cheesecake in the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours (preferably more or overnight).
  • DECORATION: Remove the cheesecake from the pan using the foil to lift it out, then carefully peel the foil off the cheesecake, and place the cheesecake on to a serving plate.
  • Place the 150 ml double cream and the 1 tbsp Baileys into a small bowl and whisk until it reaches soft peak stage. The cream will be thick but still creamy and when you lift your whisk out, small peaks will form but the tips of the peaks will fold back over.
  • Spoon the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with your choice of nozzle, and pipe the cream on the top around the edge. I piped 16 rosettes on mine (hold the piping bag vertically with the nozzle just above the cheesecake and squeeze the bag slowly until the cream mixture makes a pretty shape on the top… repeat all the way round).
  • Take the Flake bar out of it’s wrapper and carefully cut it into pieces. Place one piece on to alternating cream rosettes, and crush up the remaining chocolate. Sprinkle this all over the cream decorations.
  • Serve and enjoy! Or return it to the fridge until it is needed.

This cheesecake will keep well in the fridge for a few days, as long as the cream and cream cheese would still be in date. I hope you love this as much as I do!