12/12/2010

Curry´s Indian Restaurant Review

Although things have been pretty quiet on my blog scene lately, I have been doing plenty of cooking but just nothing that was worth blogging about, plus I have been very busy.Last week there was a long weekend and we decided to go to Madrid to do some Christmas shopping. I love Madrid at Christmas with all the pretty Christmas lights and Cortelandia-it just seems so Christmassy and magical. The only thing I don´t love however is how crowded it gets!


Whenever I go to Madrid, I always like to go to a restaurant that you can´t find where I live, such as a Greek, Thai, Indian restaurant etc. This time we decided to go to an Indian restaurant as it´s one of my favourite cuisines and I really miss it!Before going to Madrid we did some research and found two restaurants that were in the centre of Madrid and ended up choosing the nearest, Curry´s Restaurante Hindu, located in C/Silva 16.


From the outside, Curry´s doesn´t look like anything special but when you step into the restaurant, the atmosphere is friendly, clean and warm. We had arranged to have lunch with a friend who lives in Madrid so we don´t see him very often so I wasn´t paying as much attention to the food as usual. He is vegetarian but luckily like many Indian restaurants, Curry´s caters to vegetarians.


There was a poppadom each with mango chutney, mint yoghurt sauce and another sauce, which I don´t know what it was as an appetizer (which I think were free). We ordered the Daal & Aloo Tikki to share as a starter as it was vegetarian and we´d never tried it before. It was like a crispy lentil and potato cake and was delicious although I don´t know where the lentils came into it as I could only taste the potato. I ordered my usual fav dish Lamb Korma, my OH ordered Chicken Tikka Masala and our friend ordered Malai Kofta (I think!) -cheese dumplings in a curry sauce, plus we ordered 2 lots of Basmati rice and some Garlic Naan. At first the portions looked quite small but they were filled generously with meat. The meat was lovely and tender and the sauces were lovely and creamy,not too rich or too spicy. I think my OH would´ve liked his to be a bit spicier though. I managed to polish off the whole lot of curry as did the others but we were too stuffed for dessert.


The food was amazing and far better than the exterior appearance leads you to believe. Plus prices were also fairly reasonable. So if you´re in Madrid and fancy something different or have a hankering after spicy or Indian food, you should give this a try.Unfortunately I don´t have any photos as I didn´t have my camera with me.

11/23/2010

My first Christmas Cake-Part 1

This is the first time I´ve ever made a Christmas Cake so I stuck completely to Hannah Miles recipe from her book Big Book of Cakes and Cookies so therefore I haven´t included the recipe on this blog post. Usually the dried fruit in the Christmas Cake is soaked in brandy but in Hannah´s recipe, amaretto (which I absolutely love) is used instead. The smell of the fruit the following morning was heavenly, both Christmassy and almondy at the same time!

Many of the ingredients Mum had brought over from England for me but I had overlooked a couple of the ingredients such as mixed spice and self-raising flour so I had to make my own. I just used normal flour and added about a 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. I found the following mixed spice recipe on the BBC Good Food website, which I used to make up my own mixed spice (I had to leave out the mace as I didn´t have this spice and it´s not a spice that´s easy to find in Spain but it hopefully shouldn´t make too much of a difference).



After cooking the cake for 2 1/2 hrs, I let it cool, then wrapped it in baking paper and tin foil. It think it looks quite good, don´t you? I thought it was burning so turned the oven down a little but Christmas Cake usually has quite a dark colour. Every week I need to pour Amaretto over it to keep it moist and then nearer to Christmas, I´ll get down to decorating it.

11/07/2010

Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes


These Halloween cupcakes are well overdue now as I made them on Halloween itself for our Halloween party. They are slightly adapted from my cupcake calender and despite the decorating part being a bit fiddly, they went down a treat. With the cupcakes containing pumpkin puree and the addition of spices such as cinnamon and allspice, they are definitely a taste of autumn and Halloween!





Ingredients (makes around 16 medium sized cupcakes)



1 300g jar of pumpkin pieces (it´s very difficult to find here in Spain, I found it in Aldi but nearly ended up having to leave the pumpkin out which wouldn´t have been the same!)(use all pumpkin pieces but only added a little of juice from the jar)



1 1/2 cups plain flour



1tsp ground cinnamon



1tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)



1 tsp baking powder



1tsp allspice



1 1/4 cups sugar (preferably caster)



1/2 cup olive oil (mild is best so doesn´t affect taste of cupcakes)



2 lightly beaten eggs



1/2 cup milk


orange & black fondant



Halloween cookie cutters



apricot jam





Method

1. Puree the pumpkin pieces with a little of syrup/juice from jar in a blender-should make about 1 cup.

2.Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and place cupcake cases in muffin tray.

3. Mix all dry ingredients together.

4. Beat oil, eggs and milk in a large bowl and add pumpkin puree.

5. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir till well combined.

6.Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20-30 mins (depending on your oven).

7.When cool, brush with apricot jam. Cut out black and orange fondant circles using cookie cutters and stick on top of cupcakes.

8. Using Halloween cookie cutters cut out Halloween shapes in orange and black fondant. Brush with apricot jam and stick on top of fondant circles and voila you have some cute, scary(ish) Halloween cupcakes!



I used some Halloween cookie cutters I got at Target when I was in the USA, which were great for this project.However, it was a little fiddly as you had to cut out the eyes, nose and mouth with a knife so patience was definitely a virtue! Also, the cupcakes didn´t rise very much so I´m not sure if this was due to using olive oil but they tasted great,which is the main thing!






11/06/2010

(Not quite Mickey) Mouse Birthday Cake


I decided to make this cake for my niece´s third birthday, based on a cake in my Tartas de Fiesta Infantiles recipe book by Anne Wilson, as she really likes Mickey Mouse and although it´s not quite Mickey, it´s near enough!! I made a plain White sponge cake, following a recipe taken from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I then made a simple buttercream to which I added red food colouring to 1/3 cup (although I couldn´t get it to turn out a red colour no matter how much food colouring I added and instead ended up with a dark pink/purpley colour!) and yellow food colouring to the remaining buttercream.

I then covered the top of the cake with the yellow buttercream and then with a chocolate icing pen I had, I piped the outline of the face, the eyes, mouth and eyebrows. I then used chocolate hundreds and thousands/sprinkles to fill in the hairline. Not an easy job as they tended to fall wherever, not where you wanted them to fall! Using a piping bag, I outlined the mouth with the red buttercream and then coloured in the mouth. I then completed the face with large jelly beans for the eyes ( looking back really I think they were too big for the irises!), a marshmellow for the cheek and a blackberry sweet for the nose. The ears were a bit tricky to assemble too. I used 3 digestive biscuits for each ear,which I tried to stick together using the chocolate icing. I also tried to stick a toothpick between the biscuits which I then inserted into the cake, which didn´t work too badly but not as well as I had hoped!

10/24/2010

Pork & Peach Kebabs

I made this awhile ago but just haven´t got round to blogging about it until now. Unfortunately, I only have the one photo as we were starving and it was all we could do not to gobble it up, then and there! This is a recipe adapted from quite an old book, which I found in the library, called Miss Read´s Country Cooking and I think it´s a British recipe.



Ingredients: (to serve 2)

1/2 lb (around 230g) pork fillet/tenderloin,cubed

1/2 green pepper, chopped into thick squares

about 2-4 canned peach halves, quartered

1/8 pt peach juice (from canned peaches)

4-6 button mushrooms

1/8 pt water

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 tbsp of soy sauce

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch

4 wooden skewers

Method

1.Soak skewers in water to prevent them from burning. Chop all ingredients.

2. Blanch mushrooms and pepper in boiling water for about 5 mins.

3. Thread pork, peach halves, pepper and mushrooms onto skewers. Brush with olive oil and place in oven under the grill for about 20-30 mins. During this time baste with oil frequently and turn kebabs to cook them evenly.

4.Heat peach juice, water, lemon juice & soy sauce.

5. Mix cornflour with a little water and peach juice to make paste.

6. Pour peach & soy sauce mixture into paste and mix, then return it to the pan and cook for 5 mins, stirring continuously till sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Serve kebabs with rice or potatoes and vegetables and drizzle peach sauce on top of the kebabs.

10/17/2010

Buttercream Cake-Decorating Course

I took part in my second cake-decorating course held at Fabricando Delicias, this time about Buttercream. Our instructor was Jose, one of the owners of the shop, who is a very patient teacher and gave us very clear explanations and demonstrations. The course was held over two Saturdays from 10am-2pm and cost a reasonable 50 euros,plus materials.
In the first lesson, José showed us how to prepare buttercream to various consistencies depending on the type of decorations you were going to use it for (recipes are also included in the instruction booklet to accompany the course). He then showed us how to make icing bags out of baking paper...a little tricky as I´ve never been one for handicrafts! We then learnt how to use the icing bags to pipe stars, a wavy line, tight zigzags, dots and figure piping using plastic templates which we were allowed to keep (great for further practice). We made a face although I didn´t get very far with the hair! He also showed us how to pipe a heart although I didn´t have time to try piping a heart. We also had a go at piping writing, which was also fairly tricky. We were given a muffin ,which we could decorate with buttercream and quite a few of us had a go at using the grass effect nozzle, then decorated the muffins with the faces we´d piped (as you can see in the final photo).

The following Saturday we had to bring a cake with us to decorate. I just made a plain Yellow Sponge Cake but unfortunately I had a bit of a disaster and the cake stuck to the bottom of the cake tin. It was a new cake tin so not sure if that had something to do with it so it was a bit uneven. We also had to prepare Buttercream of two different consistencies but I had another disaster and only brought one kind. I made the stiff consistency to the recipe given in the instruction booklet but it ended up looking like breadcrumbs so I added 2 tbsp milk and it seemed better. However, José said it was too still dense and added water to it till it was much more manageable. I think my problem was that I didn´t leave the butter out of the fridge long enough before making the buttercream.
José showed us how to level off our cakes using a cake leveler and then we piped on the buttercream, then used the spatula to smooth it over. We then practised piping star flowers (for me perhaps one of the easiest things so far!)and swirl flowers, shells (which are also fairly complicated). Using a flower nail, we stuck some sticky tape and baking paper over the nail and practiced making cone shapes, then once we had a half-decent cone, José showed us the next steps of how to pipe a rose. It is really difficult and hardly any of us accomplished a complete rose. You definitely need lots of practice and plenty of patience!
We then went on to decorate our cakes, a bit on the rushed side as time was running out. With piping gel, which is much easier to pipe than buttercream, we traced the outline of a Hello Kitty template and then placed it on top of the cake and using a wet paintbrush went over the lines till the pattern was traced on the cake. Then, with chocolate or black buttercream we piped the outline. As we were running short of time, I also piped the eyes and nose in chocolate buttercream. Then, using the star nozzle and pink buttercream, I filled in the dress and flower with pink stars and voíla a fairly impressive Hello Kitty cake for a novice cake decorater (as can be seen in the first photo above)! The middle photo is of the teacher, José´s cake! Using a piping bag is very difficult as I´ve found out and my common problem was that I often held the bag too high up, which meant I had to use more force than necessary to squeeze out the buttercream. My hand and wrist were often aching by the end of the course! Or maybe I just need more strength!

















I took part in my second cake decorating course at Fabricando Delicias

10/10/2010

Shan: Possibly the best Asian restaurant in Ciudad Real or even in Spain!

I love Asian food and have been to quite a few Chinese/Asian restaurants in Spain, particularly in Ciudad Real.However, I have often found Chinese/Asian restaurants to be quite disappointing in Spain as they tend to be seen as a cheap alternative for eating out and the quality and choice of dishes can be very limited compared to in the UK. I tend to find Chinese or Asian food in Spain has been adapted significantly for the Spanish palettes or that many dishes are simply not on Chinese restaurant menus here and I find it less authentic.

Until I discovered, Shan Cocina Asiática restaurant that is! Shan restaurant can be found in the city centre on Avda de la Mancha 5 in Ciudad Real. It is a spacious restaurant, very clean and nicely-decorated. It is an Asian restaurant, as opposed to a Chinese restaurant, which means that as well as the usual typical Chinese dishes, it also does some dishes from other Asian cuisines, such as sushi, Thai red curry, Vietnamese spring rolls etc.

All the food is of good quality, flavourful and authentic tasting. Our favourites include the restaurants speciality dish of chicken or beef in Thai red curry, beef in Tien-Ban sauce, ham knuckle or hock Shan-style (with a lovely tasting sauce made from five-spice I think...it reminds me a little of crispy duck too),Wok-style rice noodles (with a lovely spicy Thai-style sauce). We went last night for dinner and ordered some of our favourite dishes, the Vietnamese spring rolls as a starter, fried and bursting with mince pork, carrots, cabbage, Chinese mushrooms, agar-agar, served on a lettuce leaf with a sweet-sour sauce. Then, we had the Thai Wok-style rice noodles to follow and tried a new dish, Sizzling Duck of the house. The Sizzling Duck consisted of a lovely tender and juicy duck breast cooked to perfection, with crispy skin in a brown sauce and onions, served on a sizzling hotplate. Absolutely delicious!Even my husband, who is not that keen on duck, thoroughly enjoyed this dish. We have never had a bad meal or dish at this restaurant.

I´d reccomend fried ice-cream for dessert if you fancy something sweet. The restaurant usually throws in free prawn crackers and an after-dinner chupito (shot). Service is very good, the waiters/waitresses are very friendly and the food is very prompt. It is also very reasonably priced with dishes costing between 4.45 euros to the speciality dishes and duck ,which although slightly more expensive are still very reasonable, from 8.25 -10.95 euros. If you prefer to eat at home, you can also choose to get a takeaway or order it over the phone and have it delivered to your door!

My only concern is that this wonderful restaurant is often empty, which I cannot understand as it is definitely the best Chinese/Asian restaurant I have eaten at in Ciudad Real and maybe even in Spain! Do people just not know about it or is it too authentic tasting for Spanish palettes?I really would find it a great shame if this restaurant were to close.

9/27/2010

Fondant Cake Decorating Course


Last week I took part in my first fondant cake decorating course held at Fabricando Delicias. The course was held on Wednesday evening from 5pm to 9pm and Saturday morning 10am -2pm for four hours. It was well worth the money as it cost 50 Euros for the course although you had to pay for the materials apart. Luckily I had quite a few of the decorating equipment & tools already so I didn´t have to spend a fortune.

Unfortunately I had to work on Wednesday evening so missed the first two hours of the course during which they made a snail and a frog....I intend to make these myself at home to practice. We then made a dog and an angel but time flies so quickly when you´re having fun that we didn´t have time to finish the angel and give her wings and hands. We also ran out of time to make the clown, which we could do at home if we wanted. Here are my efforts:

We made the figures out of modelling paste and it was a lot more difficult than I imagined because the modelling paste kept cracking and drying very quickly so you have to work as quickly as possible and keep kneading it to keep it soft and supple and more like Plastaline. I think they look quite cute, don´t you? Obviously I need a lot more practice though! It took me ages to colour the modelling paste at home and even though I wore gloves I still ended up with icing food colour all over my hands and my clown became a little smudged. He looks a bit like a snowman as he´s so white...I still need to give him a hat and a tie and maybe give him some more colour or stripes on his body so he looks less like a snowman!

On Saturday morning we learnt how to make fondant roses, a daisy like flower and a carnation. I think the rose and the daisy turned out well but the carnation was a disaster. More practice definitely needed! We also had to bring a cake to decorate and as I didn´t have time to make one I just bought the sponge bases from the supermarket. We learnt about different fillings you can use in the cakes. I just used raspberry jam to fill my sponge layers like a traditional Victoria sponge cake and then covered the cake in apricot jam to stick the fondant. We also learnt how to work the fondant before rolling it out, how to roll it out and cover the cake. One of the biggest problems was that the fondant tended to stick to the Roll n´Cut Mat and because of this my fondant seemed to tear or crack more easily. However, I think for a first attempt it was not bad. Here´s a photo of my cake with the rose, the daisy (you can just make it out) and the angel on it.



Below is another of the student´s cake decorated with her clown, which was very good and artistic.



The course was very informative and the teacher was very helpful. I´d definitely reccomend anyone interested in cake decorating to do a course. I´m looking forward to the next one about buttercream, which I´ve already signed up for!








9/21/2010

Don Quijote Burger


My inspiration for this burger was during my time in the States, I often liked to watch the Food Network Challenge and one day there was a burger cook-off. It got me thinking about what kind of burger would represent the region where I´m living in Spain (Castilla-La Mancha). As the lamb here is famous for being very good, there was no doubt that the burger had to be a lamb burger. I also decided to add one or two other typical regional delicacies and here is the recipe I came up with and it turned out to be pretty tasty even if I do say so myself! I named this the Don Quijote burger as Don Quijote is set in Castilla-La Mancha and almost everything here is named after him!! Here in Spain it is very difficult to find lamb mince and I had to ask the butcher to mince a bit of a leg of lamb and he wanted to mince it with a bit of pork, apparently so it didn´t get stuck in the machine and make the mincer taste of lamb! Unfortunately I didn´t write down the amounts of what I used but this is more or less the amount I used.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

1 loaf of rustic bread, cut into two rounds or 2 rustic bread buns
200g minced lamb
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of salt & pepper
1-2 tsp of frozen or dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
about 1/8 cup of fine breadcrumbs
half a beaten egg
flour to coat/bind
4 slices of Manchego cheese
2-4 tbsps/dollops of ready-prepared or homemade asadillo (if you can´t buy asadillo where you live, I´ll try and post the recipe asap although I used store bought asadillo to save time)
abundant olive oil for frying


Method

1. After chopping the onion and garlic, add to mince.
2. Add salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary,breadcrumbs and egg and combine.
3. Form into two patty shapes about 1-2 inches think. It will probably be a bit sticky so roll in flour to coat till patty is firm.
4. Fry in abundant olive oil till burger is cooked through.(this could also be grilled maybe to make it more healthy)
5. While burger is cooking, toast buns/ bread rounds.
6.Place burger on bun, place 2 slices of Manchego cheese on top and then 2-4 big dollops of asadillo.
7.Enjoy!

9/09/2010

Easy Chocolate Refrigerator Cake otherwise known as Tiffin

I felt like cooking this the other day as it was one of my favourite treats when I was a child that my Gran made me...In fact, this is actually her recipe. It´s also a treat which is great to make with children due to its easy preparation and it is also very safe as it doesn´t entail too much work with hot ovens or sharp utensils such as knives. Choc-a -block with hazelnuts, raisins,biscuits and chocolate, it´s perfect to drive away those sugar cravings.

Ingredients

6oz (about 170g) crushed digestive biscuits

2oz (about 56g)hazelnuts, chopped

2oz (about 56g) seedless raisins

2oz (about 56g) plain chocolate

2tbsp golden syrup

3oz (about 85g) butter

Method

1. Melt chocolate, syrup and butter in pan over a low heat as shown in the photo:

2. Take off heat, add biscuits, nuts and raisins and stir till combined.

3.Press into a square 7 inch tin, cut into squares, place in fridge and leave to harden.

I think you could maybe try using different types of nuts, dried fruit eg cranberries and different biscuits as variations of this recipe.









8/22/2010

Snake Sixth Birthday Cake


I have been a bit lazy on the blogging and cooking front lately-what with the heat and holidays and everything but the other day I made a 6th birthday cake for my niece. As she´s not really that keen on cake, I decided to bake a plain sponge cake, Yellow Cake which had a subtle hint of lemon and vanilla. I got the idea for the cake from a book called Tartas de fiesta infantiles-I don´t think it´s bad for a first attempt at a more "elaborate" cake!! However, I still need plenty of practice at cake decorating.

The recipe called for a round cake tin of 20cm but even though I looked everywhere could I find one, could I heck so had to settle for a 26cm cake tin. In order to save time, I used a bought Swiss roll for the arm of the six and only baked the round sponge. I then made a simple buttercream, reserving 1/2 cup of it, and experimented with food colouring to make a nice green colour and iced the cake. I ran out of buttercream though and had to make up some fresh buttercream, then use more food colouring till it was the exact same colour as the first. I started to rush towards the end as the party had already started and I still hadn´t finished the cake so it got a bit sloppy towards the end, it wasn´t as smooth as I´d have liked!

I also cut off part of the Swiss roll for the snake´s head. I then used dyed 2 teaspoons of the 1/2 cup of remaining buttercream violet (although it looked more black) and used the piping bag to pipe the eyebrows. I then dyed the remaining buttercream a lighter green and again using the piping bag(for the first time in my life!)piped a kind of V shape for the snake´s scales. They were a bit blobby in places but not too bad for a first attempt. I then used liquorice sweets for the eyes, tongue and for further decoration.

The cake seemed to be quite a success even though I´m not sure if my niece tried it but some kids went back for seconds! There wasn´t much left of it so it must have been ok! It took me almost all day to make it and I was exhausted by the time I´d finished it!!The kitchen also looked like a bomb had hit it!!

8/09/2010

Touring Vietnam & discovering it´s cuisine Part 2- Hoi An & Hue

After Halong Bay, it was back to Hanoi to catch a plane to Danang and then on to Hoi An.It was a long day especially as we were both still recuperating from the previous night´s upset stomachs! I forgot to mention that near Hanoi there are restaurants which serve dog.However, we didn´t come across any of these restaurants luckily as I don´t think I could eat a poor little dog. Mind you, we do eat little lambs and piglets (roast suckling pig) so I suppose it´s not so different!
Hoi An is a sharp contrast to Hanoi with its much quieter and laid-back streets full of little shops. We visited the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, Tan Ky House and then wandered round all the shops stopping of course at Yaly, one of the more famous shops, which makes tailored made-to-measure clothes of any design and with the material of your choice. I settled for a black and white flower patterned dress. We also took in the sights and strange smells of the market of all the local delicacies from dried shrimp and other dried fish to all kinds of exotic fruit.



In the evening we found a lovely restaurant called The Secret Garden, which our guide had told us about, but it was definitely very secret as it is hidden away down a side street and is very difficult to find. However, it was worth searching for as the restaurant is set in a sort of terrace outside in a beautiful garden with a pond.It is very beautiful and romantic especially at night when it is all lit up. There is also traditional live Vietnamese music playing while you are eating. We opted for a set menu for 2, which if I remember correctly consisted of: white rose (Bánh Bao Bánh Vạc)-a kind of dumpling filled with meat and prawns or toppd with them (delicious), Rice Pasta Rolls ( Bánh Cuon) -a type of spring roll filled with pork and mint and coriander (very fresh tasting due to the mint and coriander but not my favourite) and beef curry (CaryBò). The beef curry was divine, melt in your mouth tender beef, star anise, potato, carrots and some other vegetable or something which could have been taro.The flavours combined to make a really tasty dish. However, it wasn´t a curry as I know it as it wasn´t at all spicy, to me it was more reminicscent of a type of beef stew but anyway the main thing was that it was absolutely delicious! Dessert was a more simple affair of pineapple and watermelon. For me, this was one of the best restaurants we went to on our trip to Vietnam. The Secret Garden also does cooking courses but unfortunately time was short otherwise I´d have loved to have had a lesson in Vietnamese cuisine.



We also visited My Son, the ruins of an ancient Cham temple and the Marble Mountains. On route we stopped at a farm where they made rice pancakes and the owner showed us how she made the pancakes and we were even given the opportunity to have a go!


After Hoi An, we then travelled to Hue, Vietnam´s former imperial city, where we visited the Citadel, the impressive and beautiful Imperial Enclosure and went on a boat trip on the Perfume River. We were going to eat at this floating restaurant on the river, very near the bridge but everything we asked for, they didn´t have so we decided to go somewhere else. We found a lovely (but empty) restaurant set in a beautiful garden again . I think it was very late by the time we wanted to eat. We weren´t very hungry so only ordered a salad and banh khoai, a typical speciality from Hue, which consists of a rice flour pancake filled with prawns,pork and bean sprouts and fried. The food in the restaurant was of high quality and was quite expensive for usual Vietnamese restaurant prices. The banh khoai was absolutely delicious but very filling however I think because we weren´t that hungry we weren´t as keen on the salad and couldn´t eat much. I think we ate the banh khoai again during our time in Hue but the one from Rendezvous was definitely the best. We didn´t realize until we went in that the restaurant belonged to the Morin hotel but I´d definitely reccommend this restaurant as the food was exquisite and again a lovely and romantic setting. It was just unfortunate that we weren´t very hungry and didn´t like our choice of salad. We also ordered beef with lemongrass which was also delicious but we were just so full we couldn´t eat it. Unfortunately we don´t have any photos of the banh khoai.


I can´t remember what this is-prawns in a crispy panko type batter with a cute penguin/snowman made out of cucumber that we ate in a different restaurant!

7/28/2010

Touring Vietnam & discovering its cuisine-Hanoi and Halong Bay

Originally we had booked to go to Thailand for our honeymoon but after all the trouble with the Red Shirts in Bangkok, we decided to change to Vietnam as it was still Asia and it also meant we could use our flight.
We booked a guided tour for 13 nights,which started in Hanoi and ended with a couple of days to relax on the beach in Nha Trang. I hadn´t tried much Vietnamese food before our trip so was looking forward to trying this unknown cuisine. As we had chosen to go on a guided tour, lunch in a restaurant, usually with a set menu,was often included in the day´s visit. I however think that this was a more Westernized version of Vietnamese food as during our whole visit, we didn´t even get to try one of Vietnam´s most well-known dishes, Pho!! I really enjoyed Vietnamese food and its fresh, herby, sour and sweet blend of flavours and the next few blog entries will be about my experiences and food discoveries. Hopefully in the future I´ll also include some Vietnamese recipes as I couldn´t resist buying a Vietnamese cookbook!
When we arrived in Hanoi, we had the first day to ourselves to explore so after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, the first thing on our agenda was to find somewhere for lunch.We found a little café,which unfortunately I can´t remember the name of, and ordered a sausage sandwhich and braised beef. Both were delicious especially the braised beef which was really tender. One of the main things that hits you when you first arrive is the amount of traffic especially motorbikes in Hanoi that there is and also how chaotic it is. Crossing the road is definitely an adventure and an experience-I was pretty scared each time I had to do it!
We wandered around the Old Quarter taking in the sounds, smells and sights of Hanoi. One common sight is women carrying all kinds of strange fruit or other things in special baskets hung on a wooden pole carried across their shoulders. You can also see motorbikes which are completely laden with products, like in the following picture:
The following day we visited the typical sights of Hanoi, such as Ho Chi Minh´s Mausoleum, One-Pillar Pagoda, the Museum of Ethnology, the Temple of Literature etc. In the evening, we ate at a lovely restaurant,Dinh Lang Thuy Ta, which overlooked the Hoan Kiem Lake. Although expensive by Vietnamese standards, it is worth it for a romantic meal with beautiful views, the wonderful food and service and also traditional music while you eat. We shared a lotus flower stem salad which had a crunchy texture from the lotus stems and the peanuts (pictured below)


I chose steamed chicken with lime leaves-the meat was lovely and tender and the overall dish had a nice taste although I wasn´t too keen on the lime leaves which seemed to overpower the dish a little.


My husband chose a beef dish, hot and sour I think (sorry I´m so bad with the names!!) which was delicious and I actually preferred it to my dish!

We took the waiter´s advice for dessert and chose lotus seeds and dried longans in a syrup . The lotus seeds had a nutty, almost white chocolatey taste which wasn´t too bad and the longans were a bit like raisins.


We also tried agar-agar with dried longans in syrup. Neither of us were too keen on either of the desserts unfortunately but of the two, the lotus seeds were the best. You have to try these things!!

After a couple of days in Hanoi, we made our way to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stayed aboard a typical junko and took in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of more than 2000 rocky islands jutting out of the sea.



As the food on the boat was mainly fish and seafood which I´m not that keen on we ordered something different for me. I got mainly meat dishes but one dish in particular looked a bit green around the edges but tasted fine. Unfortunately that night I started with bad stomach pains and both me and my husband, who had also eaten some of this meat, spent the vomitting and with diahorria!























7/22/2010

Fabricando Delicias-all things sweet!

I´m finding it hard to be motivated to blog or even cook or bake in this heat, despite having more time on my hands. I thought I´d include some of my favourite foodie places, taking a closer look at some shops as living in a rather small Spanish town, it´s very difficult to find certain foods and ingredients and am constantly on the lookout for places where I can get hold of these things.

A new shop has recently opened in my city called Fabricando Delicias which sells all things connected to cakes, baking and cake-decorating, my new-found passion. Someone has already beaten me to it as I had the idea of opening a cake shop but with no business sense and not being totally convinced if this kind of shop would be successful in a little town I didn´t risk it. They have a wide range of silicone and metal cake moulds, muffin cases, cake racks and other baking and decorating equipment. They also sell prepared fondant, sugarpaste, vanilla extract, glycerine etc from the well-known American brand, Wilton. I was very surprized to find this shop where I live as I didn´t think fondant cakes, cupcakes etc were very well-known here so am hoping that it does well and doesn´t go out of business!I have already bought some Wilton´s Pure Clear Vanilla Extract and some Wilton´s Gum-Tex! Although the shop is really handy, its products are fairly limited and tend to be a bit on the expensive side compared to shops in England (mainly because there´s more competition I think!)so will still be getting quite a bit of stuff online.

They also are going to do some cake-decorating courses, one about Buttercream and another about Fondant/Pastillage. I´ve signed up for both but am waiting for other people to sign up too although with August coming up, the city tends to be a ghost town as everyone is on holiday and lots of shops close. Unfortunately, this is when I have more time so I hope I can still do the courses as if they end up being in September, I might not be able to do them because of work obigations.

7/11/2010

My beautiful wedding cake



Here are some photos, courtesy of Amelia (who made my cake) of my beautiful wedding cake- she really did us proud and made a wonderful job of it. It was delicious too. My wedding cake was a typical traditional fruit cake with marzipan and icing. I was really worried about how it would arrive to Spain from Portugal after a long car journey with quite a few curves to go round. Luckily, it arrived without any problems, only for my boyfriend to trip up when my stepdad and him were transfering it from the car to a room in Casa Pepe!!! Fortunately, they didn´t drop the cake and it was unharmed!




7/07/2010

Casa Pepe-Wedding Reception Dinner

I´ve been absent lately due to getting married and the honeymoon. The day turned out to be absolutely perfect, exactly as I had imagined it and everyone enjoyed it. We held the wedding reception in a hotel & restaurant,Casa Pepe (unfortunately their webpage is only in Spanish), located on the Ctra. of Carrión de Calatrava in Ciudad Real, which is famous for weddings especially the quantity and quality of their food. The hotel has two salons for weddings, one larger salon which holds up to 450 guests and a smaller room,which can seat up to 250 guests. As our wedding was only a small affair, we were in the small salon. However, they also have a wonderful restaurant, which is worth visiting if you are in the area.

This is the meal we chose as our wedding dinner:

Welcome Cocktail:

Appetizers: Mini regional tartelets filled with pisto (the Spanish version of ratatouille)
Iberian ham
Manchego cheese
Roasted Almonds
Mini regional tartelets with Lomo de Orzo (pork loin in olive oil)
Mini cornets of cod brandade
Chinese style tuna

Drinks: Choice of Beer, Wine, Soft drinks, Cava & orange or Martini cocktails


Three-dimensional starter: Octopus kebab with cream of cauliflower soup
Mini salad of goats cheese & cured venison
Cod Carpaccio with hake sushi

First Course: Lobster salad with truffle vinaigrette & tropical fruits

Main Course: Choice of: Roast suckling pig confit served with roast apple & chestnut purée
Sea bass loin in a Jerez sherry sauce

Dessert: Pineapple Carpaccio with tropical fruit and yoghurt ice-cream

After-dinner: Coffee, Cider, Cava and Liqueurs

Wine Cellar: Requiebro Verdejo
Barbarrosa Rosado
Altozano Tinto

As I am a fusspot and I´m not keen on fish or seafood, I had a special menu apart, which differed only slightly: in the three-dimensional starter I had the goats cheese salad, mini cornets of paté, porcini risotto and for my first course I had ricotta cheese and spinach ravoli. Everything was delicious but unfortunately due to nerves or excitement, I couldn´t really eat much!

5/26/2010

My first sugarcraft lesson

I had my first sugarcraft lesson last weekend with Amalia, who´s making my wedding cake. She´s Portuguese I think but has lived in South Africa and Mozambique. Apparently South Africa is a very good place for cake decorating and all other types of crafts as they have loads of guilds for each craft.





She started off the lesson by showing us all the equipment and explaining what it was for and why we needed it. You need a hell of a lot of equipment especially if you want to make sugar flowers so it is quite an expensive hobby is all that I can say!





At one point I asked if it helped to be an artistic person as I don´t really have an artistic bone in my body. Amalia´s reply was that she couldn´t draw but later she showed us this beautiful ostrich egg which she had decorated-it was amazing!! My arse, she can´t draw!!!




I´d love to say that I made the flower above but unfortunately the course wasn´t as hands-on as I´d hoped but it was still very interesting! We took some icing sugar and an egg and Amalia showed us how to make our own flower paste. I didn´t get to take many photos as my hands were too dirty after preparing the flower paste plus I was too busy trying to take notes about making a rose bud. Amalia showed us and explained how to make a rose bud and other tips about making flowers. Three hours flew by! I had thought we were going to start with more basic things like different types of icing and how to make them, icing a cake and piping but it looks like we´re just jumping straight into the more advanced stuff of flower making, which is fine by me. Now I just need lots of practice and patience although I can´t do anything until I have all the tools!! Amalia also recommended a book called Sugar Flowers which explains how to make different flowers with the help of illustrations!
















5/18/2010

English Muffins

As I can´t buy English muffins where I live I thought I´d have a go at making them myself, plus I was also dying to try out making some homemade bread. I´ve only attempted making bread once before, which turned out quite successfully.I´m not a big bread fan, however there is something about fresh homemade bread which definitely beats mass-produced bread. Believe it or not, I first tried English muffins as part of Eggs Benedict in a breakfast buffet in a restaurant in Niagra Falls and they became one of my staple breakfast foods during my stay in the States!



As this was my first attempt at making English muffins, I followed Delia Smith´s recipe (I took the recipe from her Complete Cookery Course book but this is almost exactly the same)to the dot. The only difference is that I used normal sugar as I´d run out of caster sugar and I didn´t use 2 0z of lard...I only used the tiniest amount just to grease the frying pan. The recipe turned out to be a great success (as you can see in the photo below!) so I will definitely be making them again!


1. Milk, water, sugar and yeast mixed to form frothy head

2. Forming the dough



3. After kneading (top-left
hand corner) 4. Risen dough (top-right
hand corner) 5. Muffins covered in clingfilm to rise
(bottom left)



The finished muffins after light frying! Delicious!





























5/11/2010

Goat´s Cheese and Cranberry Salad

I´m so excited as this is the first time I´ve taken part in a blog event! Nuría over at Spanish Recipes is hosting a new bimonthly event Eating Good Feeling Good which will look at a different ingredient from the Food Pyramid in each event. The first ingredient of this month´s event is olive oil and I knew as soon as I saw it I knew which recipe I would be submitting!
Living in Spain I have been converted to olive oil and use it every day in my cooking from frying to salad dressings.I even use it for Chinese stir-frys!! My favourite ways to use olive oil is for frying and in salad dressings. However, I still can´t get used to putting it on toast in the mornings for breakfast and I prefer a mild olive oil as it doesn´t have quite as strong a taste as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, so it is more versatile and can be used in all types of dishes. Although olive oil is very good for your health, it is still a fat and I only use a little when frying-one bottle lasts me for at least a month!I believe that olive oil is good for your health because it is rich is monounsaturated fats which lower the risk of coronary heart disease and it actually lowers the cholesterol in your body.

Anyway, although olive oil is not strictly the main ingredient in this recipe, it is a very important ingredient in the recipe. As the days are starting to get warmer (at least they were!) sometimes it´s too hot to be slaving over a hot oven, so a salad is just what you need. And what could be healthier than a salad? The idea for this salad came from a recipe I saw for Goat´s cheese and Cherry salad in Allrecipes which I adapted to what I had in my fridge at the time and it has become a firm favourite. I think the flavours just blend together really well, the tart sweetness of the cranberries and pear with the crisp tang of the lettuce leaves and the creamy bite of the goats cheese.


Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish)
85g bag of mixed salad (baby leaf salad is particularly good)
1 medium/large ripe Conference pear, peeled and chopped

1/3-1/2 cup dried cranberries

55g goats cheese, chopped or crumbled

a couple of slices (smoked) ham or turkey, chopped (optional)

pinch of salt to taste

about 1 tbsp mild olive oil

about 1 tsp red wine vinegar

Method

1. Place ingredients in a bowl.

2. Season with salt and dress with the olive oil and red wine vingear. Toss to cover salad completely with the dressing.


5/09/2010

Cherry Sauce with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

After making my Easy Cherry Cheesecake last week I had some cherries and mascarpone cheese left over so I decided to make a simple dessert based on a Black Cherry Sauce in my WeightWatchers Made to Measure recipe book. I also whipped up a vanilla mascarpone cream after looking at various recipes. Although not my favourite dessert in the world, the end result wasn´t too bad. Next time though I think I´d add a little cream to the mascarpone cream to give it a creamier texture and texture as I found it a little heavy.



Black Cherry sauce (adapted from Weight Watchers Made to Measure)

Ingredients (Serves 2)



383g pitted cherries and juice

about 3/4 of 1/4 cup of red wine (roughly about 45ml)

2 inch piece of cinnamon stick

2 inch strip of lemon peel

20g sugar

2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp cornflour



Vanilla Mascarpone Cream (for 2 people)

leftover mascarpone cheese (about 100g roughly?)

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp sugar


Method


1. Place cherries & juice in a saucepan with the red wine, cinnamon stick and lemon peel (as shown in the photo above), cover and simmer for about 10 mins on a medium/high heat.

2. Stir in sugar and remove from heat.

3. Mix the cornflour with the water to make a paste, stir into the cherries and put back on the heat.

4. Bring to boil ,stirring all the time and boil for a minute (as shown in the photo below),then remove from the heat.


5. Leave cherry sauce to cool and chill. Remove lemon peel and cinnamon stick before serving.



Vanilla Mascarpone Cream



Method

1. Whisk mascarpone cream till fluffy, add vanilla essence and sugar and beat till combined and has a creamy texture.



Serve cherry sauce with a dollop of vanilla mascarpone cream and you have a fairly light and easy dessert to use up the leftovers. Unfortunately, I don´t have any final photos because it wasn´t the most attractive looking dessert I´ve ever made!

5/04/2010

The Art Of Sugarcraft: Basic Skills DVD: A Review

As promised,here is the review of the DVD The Art of Sugarcraft:Basic Skills. This DVD may not feature a very famous cake decorator as far as I know but it is still a great bargain as you can find it on Amazon for under 3 pounds. Unfortunately, the supplier I bought it off didn´t send it to Spain so I had to get it sent to a UK address and my mum picked it up for me when she went to the UK.

The DVD is hosted by Jenny Harris and Sara Carter, who are both International Gold Medal Winners. They show you a variety of basic skills and techniques needed for cake decorating which includes marzipanning and coating a cake in sugar paste, crimping, piping, etc. Their explanations are clear and very informative, almost as if a friend were giving you a class in their own home. This DVD is a great starting point for those who want to learn how to decorate cakes as a hobby. I can´t wait to get started and try out all the things I´ve learnt from this DVD although some things seem quite complicated even though they´re supposed to be basic skills!! Plus, it looks like you need a lot of equipment for decorating!

The only down side to the DVD is the filming seems to be quite amateur. It almost seems more like a homemade video production than a professional production due to its poor quality. That being said, I´d still recommend it as you can´t beat the price and it is a great place to start if you are a novice cake decorator like me! It´s much cheaper than doing a cake decorating course!

5/01/2010

Easy Penne Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Salami

This is a post without any photos as it was an experimental dish that I just kind of threw together. I didn´t bother taking any photos as I wasn´t sure how it was going to turn out. I fancied some pasta and was thinking of a vegetarian tomato sauce style pasta dish, but I had some salami which needed using so I thought why not chuck it in as well. It actually turned out to be a really tasty dish. Here´s more or less what I did but as I just eyeballed everything and kind of chucked it all in, I´m not too sure about the measurements. I´d bought a packet of sun-dried tomatoes the day before and was dying to use them so I thought I´d add a few of them too! A quick, easy and tasty meal!



Ingredients: (serves 2)



around 250g penne pasta (I just guessed the right amount for 2)

1/2 red onion,finely sliced

about 1/3 cup white wine

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (I used all that had been left over from another day)

3-4 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

leftover salami, around 20-30g? (preferably containing fennel) (finely chopped)

1tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

1. Place pasta in pan of salted,boiling water and cook until al dente.

2. Fry onion and garlic in olive oil until tender.

3. Add sun-dried tomatoes and salami and cook for 2-3 mins.

4. Add wine, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further 3-5 mins.

5. Serve the tomato sauce on top of the pasta with garlic bread and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Burn Baby Burn



Is it a new form of modern art sculpture or is it a plane? No, it´s actually all that remains of my very handy measuring teaspoon. It somehow ended up in the oven when I was making some Caramelized Red Onion and Goat´s Cheese Tarts (I have absolutely no idea how it got there!) In fact, my boyfriend only discovered it when he opened the oven to put in a pizza, so he got landed with the lucky job of cleaning it up!!
 
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