So here goes:
What, or who, inspired you to write a blog?
I started reading blogs such as Anne´s Kitchen and Gourmet Traveller, which I really admired and as I had time on my hands at that moment in time and I was getting more and more into cooking and baking, thought it would be a good idea to start my own blog as a way of pushing myself and honing my skills to become a better cook!
Who is your foodie inspiration?
My wonderful Gran as she was an excellent cook and made the most delicious cakes-she was always baking and cooking and I used to help her with the easy stuff and then licked the bowl clean!! So she was the one who probably sparked my interest in baking and cooking more! Her homemade apricot jam was to die for too!!
Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?
Oh, a difficult one as I´m always flicking through all my cookbooks but it definitely has to be a toss-up between Delia Smith´s Complete Cookery Course and Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book, which I bought the first time I stayed in the USA, as all the recipes from it are yummy and usually turn out really well!
Tell us about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
Another difficult one!! It´s really hard to narrow it down and remember!! I´m going to cheat and say a couple of things as I find it impossible to narrow it down to just one! Roast duck a l´orange in a Portuguese restaurant or roast suckling pig in Spain (particularly good in Segovia!), Eggs Benedict in the buffet breakfast in Niagra Falls (see Discovering Niagra post) and sweet things either the blueberry hotcake at Pamela´s Diner in the Strip District in Pittsburgh or cherry pie in the USA.
Another food bloggers table you´d like to eat at is?
I love Asian food so I´d probably pick something from either Gourmet Traveller´s or Sunflower´s Food Galore table but there are plenty of things I´d love to try on all the blogs I read, visit or follow!!
What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
Probably a Kitchen Aid mixer for all my baked goods!!
Who taught you how to cook?
Apart from helping my Gran and Mum when I was little, I mainly taught myself how to cook using recipe books and I also did a GCSE in Food Technology, which also helped!!
I´m coming to you for dinner what´s your signature dish?
My signature dessert is definitely cherry cheesecake, not sure what my main course signature dish is! Maybe my Don Quijote burgers but since I´ve only made them for me and my OH not sure what everyone else thinks about them!
What is your guilty food pleasure?
I have a really sweet tooth so anything like chocolate etc. I absolutely love marzipan-in fact I used to prefer the icing and marzipan to the fruit cake-still do actually!!
Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
Don´t know! I don´t like coffee, beer or wine! Or maybe that I have lived in the UK, Germany, Spain and the USA!
Anyway,here´s the five I´ve tagged to join in although it´s not compulsory:
Gill at Gillthepainter
Debs at thespanishwok
and last but not least: Mamacook
Anyway, on to the main post, Tapearte 2011. This is an annual tapas contest held in Ciudad Real, where restaurants and bars compete against one another to win the title of best tapa and it is voted by you, the general public. Participating bars/restaurants have leaflets or you can pick them up at the tourist office, which list all the tapas and places taking part. You can then visit the bar and try the tapa which you fancy the most for the small fee of 2 euros for a beer or other drink(some allow you to have soft drinks or Salobriña, a red grape & apple juice drink, others you have to pay extra if you don´t have an alcoholic drink!)plus the tapa! This year Tapearte 2011 was from October 12 -October 16. The bar then stamps your leaflet and you mark the tapa on taste, presentation and originality. If you collect 7 stamps, you can also enter a prize draw!
This is the first year that we actually managed to take part in it and I think now it is going to be a regular event that we will join in!The first bar we tried was La Calle in C. Mata, The tapa was pork tenderloin with caramelized onion on a slice of bread in a reduction of sherry (Pedro Ximenez, I think) .It was delicious, especially as the bread had soaked up all the juices howver not very good on the originality and presentation counts! Unfortunately, I didn´t get a photo of this!
The next place we tried was the tapa in Miami Gastro (in Avenida de Rey Santo), unfortunately I can´t remember exactly what it consisted of. I think it was a toast with mushrooms in truffle oil or something. It was good but a bit of a disappointment coming from them as I really enjoyed this restaurant when we went there.
Next we tried Guridi´s (C. Libertad) tapa. Guridi has already won the tapas contest twice before and this year, their entry did not disappoint. By far the winner in presentation at least, the tapa was a mini burger complete with a quail´s egg and served on a poppy-seed bun (the bun was a little dry, I have to say), a potato chip coil wrapped round a flower as you can see in the following photo:
We then went to La Esquina de Hierbabuena, directly opposite Guridi on C. Libertad, whose tapa was a tasty sheep´s cheese Encomienda de Cervera covered in pistachios and spearmint and fried.
Using round cookie cutters, I cut out circles of orange rolled fondant and stuck it onto the pumpkin cupcakes using edible glue. I then rolled out the black fondant and using a 16 icing nozzle and a 2 icing nozzle, cut out the head and body for the spider. I then cut thin strips for the legs, which I rolled between my fingers to shape them into spidery legs and stuck them onto the orange fondant-again with the edible glue! I then rolled some small balls of orange fondant for the spider´s eyes. I still have some black and orange fondant left so any ideas of what I can do with it, which aren´t related to Halloween, are greatly welcomed!! Looking forward to next Halloween when Chloe will be able to dress up and join in the fun!!
I was going to decorate the ghosts with royal icing but in the end settled on glace icing as it was quicker to whip up and despite using a spatula instead of piping it on, I think they actually look quite neat!! I made the eyes and mouths with some black fondant and stuck them on with some edible glue. I then rolled out some black fondant and covered the gravestones and bats with black fondant. Using the glace icing, I then piped RIP onto the tombstones, unfortunately as the icing was quite thin, it was very difficult to pipe writing and kept blobbing out and joining up so it was harder to make out what it said(but had to make do as ended up having to rush it all). I then rolled out some orange fondant and covered the pumpkin- shaped biscuits and made eyes for the bats. I then cut out some black triangles and squiggly shapes for the eyes and mouths of the pumpkin and stuck them on with the edible glue again! I think by the time I finished it was 1 am!!
I was planning on doing more detail,like giving the pumpkins green stalks and maybe giving the bats fangs or mouths etc but as it got quite late and I was tired, I didn´t have the energy or the will! All in all though, I don´t think they turned out that bad even though they were decorated in quite a hurried manner!!
wants them to measure up to the muffins we had in America and so far they haven´t met that standard. For starters he says they´re too small....time for a new muffin pan, is what I say!! ; )Anyway, this recipe is the closest I´ve found so far and it is actually an American recipe taken from the book Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book!
Ingredients (for 12 muffins)
1 3/4 cup of plain flour
1/3 cup sugar
2tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sunflower oil
Streusal topping (optional)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
1.Line muffin pan with paper cases and preheat oven to 200ºC/ 400ºF.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and make a well in the middle.
3. Stir egg, milk and oil together, then pour into well and mix until combined.
5. Stir in blueberries when batter is almost combined.
6. Spoon into paper cases filling two-thirds full. Sprinkle Streusal topping on top of muffins and place in oven.
7. Bake for 18-20 mins until golden and cool for 5 mins.
Mix flour, sugar and cinnamon, then rub in butter till it looks like breadcrumbs the same as you would for a crumble.
And there you have it scrummy blueberry muffins with a streusal topping, I made half with and half without as wasn´t sure if my husband would prefer them plain or with the streusal topping. He liked them both ways but in my opinion the Streusal topping just makes these muffins that bit extra yummy!
My love of cooking came about due to helping my Gran bake and then at high school, I chose Food Technology as my Technology subject because I didn´t like metalwork or woodwork or any of the other options. One of the projects we had to do was about Vegetarianism and before that I really hadn´t tried much vegetarian food (and wasn´t really keen to try it either!!). I still have most of the recipes we used today and here is one of my favourites: Rainbow Quiche.
Ingredients (for 2 people)
1 packet of shortcrust pastry
1/2 red or white medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 red/green or yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
1/2 courgette, finely chopped
1/4 pint milk
a knob of margarine/butter (about 12g)
50g Cheddar cheese (or other if you prefer)
1. Line flan dish with pastry.
2. Beat eggs and milk together.
3. Grate cheese.
4.Fry vegetables in margarine or butter for 5 minutes until tender.
5. Place in flan dish, add grated cheese and egg & milk mixture (season if preferred although I don´t think it´s necessary)
6.Bake for around 30 mins at 190ºC/Reg 5 until all or the majority of the liquid has set.
Ingredients (makes about 8 slices)
100g oat digestives (or similar biscuits-I think gingernuts would be great for this recipe if I could buy them!)
1/2 cup of lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 cup of whipping cream (2nd cup optional)
1tsp grated lime zest
1 1/4 cups of condensed milk
1.Process biscuits in food processor till very fine crumbs.
2. Melt butter in pan over low heat and add to biscuit crumbs,mix, then press into cake tin to form biscuit base, place in fridge.
3. Mix condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice in a bowl.
4. Beat whipping cream with an electric hand whisk till it forms soft peaks.
5.Fold into condensed milk and lime juice mixture, then spoon on top of biscuit base.
6.Freeze for 2-4 hours. If desired, whip up extra cup of cream and place on top and grate some lime zest on top for decoration.
Ingredients (for 2)
1 cup long grain rice (I used Basmati)
pinch of saffron
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped
3 mushrooms, sliced
handful of frozen green beans
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 litre vegetable stock (you might need to add a little more)-I used veggie Oxo cube
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1.Place vegetable stock in a pan and add saffron strands.When it reaches boiling point, remove from heat.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, garlic, tumeric, paprika, cinnamon and rice until rice is infused with spices.
3. Add vegetable stock, red pepper,mushrooms, green beans and salt.
4. Once boiling point has been reached, lower the heat and cook slowly for 20 minutes until rice is tender.
So in the end all I did was re-ice the cake with Royal Icing using the peak method (it´s easier than trying to get it completely smooth and time was of the essence!)with the help of my mum, then we stuck the teddies round the side of the cake and placed the teddy on top of the cake and the bootees and name plaque on the cake board and voíla!What do you think? Very cute,methinks! Will have to have some more attempts at the bootees and baby feet for the next one!!
I also wanted to make some decorated biscuits as favours for the guests even though I set myself up for a lot of work!! I made the biscuits on Thursday night, then using the leftover Royal Icing from the cake, I dyed a small quantity of it pink with red liquid food colouring. Using disposable icing bags and two Wilton no.2. nozzles I outlined the biscuits in white and filled in the bottles and the wheels of the prams. I then filled the prams in and the bottle teats with the pink icing, then on the bottles I piped Chloe´s name and simple designs such as lines for the measures and spots in pink and then on the pram spots and Chloe´s name in white. Practice definitely makes perfect as I think these are my best Christening biscuits to date and writing turned out much better than ever before.
To give my biscuits a more professional touch, my parents and I wrapped them in cellophane and tied them with pink ribbon curled at the end (I´m not really very good at doing these creative things so my parents helped me!!) and they turned out really well in the end! I was pretty impressed with myself! I definitely have to speed up though if I want to do this professionally some time!!
I haven´t got around to tackling one of the bigger or more difficult projects yet.However, I have made the following, simpler Piña Colada cheesecake, taken from the latest issue (No.6)
Here´s a slightly adapted version of the recipe taken from Bricoreposteria:
100g digestive biscuits (I used oaty ones!)
50g unsalted butter
2 coconut yoghurts
227g tin of pineapple
100g dessicated coconut*
6 gelatine sheets (you could substitute this for powdered gelatine sachets)
yellow food colouring (optional)
1. Blast the digestive biscuits in a food processor(great time saver!) and melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, then add melted butter to biscuits and mix, till biscuit crumbs start to hold together.
2. Press biscuit mixture into dish and place in fridge.
3. Place 4 gelatine sheets in a little warm water (here is where I got ahead of myself and made a slight both by placing all gelatine sheets in water and then consequently in cheesecake mix but in the end,it wasn´t a big deal and the cake still turned out pretty tasty!) and warm one coconut yoghurt in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, then add warm yoghurt to gelatine sheets and stir till gelatine dissolves completely.
4. Add the other yoghurt, the mascarpone, the sugar and the dessicated coconut and mix till well combined, then spoon over the biscuit base and put in fridge while you prepare the pineapple part.
5. Separate the juice/ syrup from the pineapple and heat the juice in a pan or in the microwave, add the remaining gelatine and mix till dissolved.
6. Blast the pineapple & gelatine & pineapple juice in a food processor and add a couple of drops of yellow food colouring if desired and place on top of cheesecake.
7. Leave in fridge for 4 hours or until cheesecake has set.
* As I´m not that fond of coconut, I would reduce the amount of dessicated coconut to 50g next time I make this cake or maybe even leave it out all together as I found it very coconutty tasting,plus the dessicated coconut gives it a very grainy texture, which I didn´t find that pleasant.
* Another adaption I might make next time is try making it with fresh pineapple and soak it in rum...then it would truly be a Piña Colada Cheesecake!
This time I tried a different buttercream, Hannah Miles´ buttercream recipe from Big Book of Cakes & Cookies, as usually the buttercream recipe I use doesn´t set, which maybe due to the heat. I coloured the majority of the buttercream yellow and about 1/4 cup of it orange using red and yellow liquid food colouring. Using a palette knife I covered the cake with the yellow buttercream as smoothly as possible but still managed to get crumbs mixed in it. I need to learn how to crumb coat! I then filled a disposable icing bag with the orange buttercream and using a 12 " icing nozzle, piped orange blobs for the giraffe´s spots. For the mane and the giraffe´s mouth,nose and eyes I used sweets such as liquorice and blackberries and voíla a friendly giraffe number seven cake!
I think it was a big hit at my niece´s birthday party as it was soon gobbled up and some kids even went back for seconds or thirds! Next year I think I´ll have to make a bigger cake!!
It is housed on two floors, the bottom floor is a bar area with some seated and standing areas whereas upstairs is a more formal sit-down restaurant area. The whole restaurant is very chic,modern and trendy.
When I went, San Fermines was about to finish so the waitresses were dressed in San Fermin outfits (white clothes with a red bandana) and there was a special menu for San Fermin although we didn´t go off that menu. Apparently there is also a special taster menu for only 20 euros but we didn´t see this at the time. We chose a rocket salad with cheese and a balsamic vinegar dressing (if I remember correctly), chicken sticks, which were long,thin crispy sticks of chicken in filo type pastry with a curry sauce (pictured below)-very delicious!
Mini gourmet burgers of beef/ox (buey) with gorgonzola cheese and rocket salad.I had a plain burger as I don´t like blue cheese although they offered to give me the burger with Cheddar cheese but in the end they didn´t have any! The burgers were very tasty, juicy,meaty and tender. We also couldn´t leave without trying the famous courgette flowers, which are coated in a crispy batter very similar to Tempura and stuffed with goats cheese and herbs, also very tasty but rather on the expensive side as you only get one courgette flower for 5euros!
Everyone went for yoghurt foam with fruit for dessert which came in little glass pots and were apparently delicious. I selected my dessert from the San Fermin menu, which I was luckily allowed to do, and decided on a cherry and almond tart. It was very reminiscent of a Cherry Bakewell tart and was absolutely yummy-one of the best desserts I´ve eaten in a Spanish restaurant.
All in all, I was very impressed with the restaurant, the food was amazing and the service was very helpful, quick and friendly. The only thing I would say is that the portions are fairly small and they are quite expensive,particularly the courgette flower for what it is! It has now become one of my favourite restaurants and I´m looking forward to taking my parents there next week! I also have to add that they do cocktails there but as of yet I haven´t been able to try any yet!
Sabor Y Sazón is a fairly small restaurant,not particularly chic but cozy. The restaurant does a taster menu for only 10 euros per person minus drinks so it´s very reasonable too. We all chose a taster menu, which is comprised of about 5-6 small courses. First of all we had empanadas, a type of cornmeal pasty filled with meat (shown below)
The second course was a fried cornmeal ball stuffed with meat, potato and rice (very delicious but also very filling!) (shown below)
We then had an arepa (a flat,round patty made of corn flour) with cheese on it, followed by two smaller arepas,one with chicken on and the other had tuna on it.By this time, I was full to bursting and yet there was still one more dish! However I couldn´t eat the tuna arepa or the final dish, which is a flat cake or patty made from banana and which was topped with prawns and thousand island dressing. As we were all so stuffed none of us tried a dessert but they also have a variety of tropical juices which you can have with either milk or water. My mum had mango juice with milk, which was lovely and creamy and tasted very similar to a mango lassi and on the waiter´s reccommendation , I tried a fruit juice I´d never heard of with water, lulo (also known as naranjilla) shown below:
Although it doesn´t look very appealing, it´s a greenish colour and is quite lumpy looking so a bit reminiscent of puke really, it has a sweet acidic taste, which was actually very refeshing and pleasant tasting!
As I ´ve never been to another Columbian restaurant before I have nothing to compare this restaurant to but on the whole, it´s a nice restaurant where you can find good, tasty, filling, and reasonable food.
I made a traditional Victoria Sandwich (my first sandwich cake!) named after Queen Victoria as she was rather partial to it before I gave birth but didn´t get chance to blog it until now. So here´s the recipe.
Ingredients (serves 8)
100g/ 4oz butter at room temperature
100g/4oz caster sugar
100g/4oz self-raising flour
whipped cream (preferably fresh rather than UHT although I can´t buy fresh cream here!)
icing sugar to dust
1. Grease and flour two sandwich tins .
2.Cream butter and sugar together till fluffy and light.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with each.
4. Add remaining flour and mix till well combined, then spoon mixture into sandwich tins.
5. Bake in preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF or Gas No 4 for 25 to 30 mins.
6. When cakes have cooled, spread raspberry jam and whipped cream on one of sandwich cakes and then sandwich together.
7. Using a sieve, dust icing sugar over the top to decorate.
Anyway, I have been meaning to review this restaurant which we went to last time my Mum came to visit but just haven´t got around to it until now!! Restaurante Gabinadas is situated in C/Alcantara 8 in Ciudad Real. The restaurant is fairly small but decorated in a modern style. It is a fairly new restaurant but we have been three times now, always for lunch.
Usually we order from the Menu of the Day, which costs around 12.50 euros and includes a first course, main course and dessert or coffee and also bread. Drinks aren´t included in the price. One of the reasons I like this restaurant is that it has a wide choice of first and second courses. I had gnocchi with pesto for my starter, which was delicious but maybe a bad choice as I sometimes get a bit bored of this type of dish. Another good thing about this restuarant is that the portions aren´t too big as in some Spanish restaurants, just the first course fills me up! Last time I went to this restaurant I had Piquillo peppers stuffed with meat, which is delicious and I thoroughly recommend.
My husband and his father had Callos (tripe...yuk!), which although good,they said was a little salty or bland-I can´t remember which!
My mum and I chose pork fillet with pastry in a cranberry sauce for our main course, which was absolutely scrumptious (I´ve eaten it twice now!).As with most of the main courses, it was served with a tiny portion of mashed potatoes, a brussel sprout, a cherry tomato and a slice of beetroot (Spanish restaurants don´t really do much in the way of side dishes).
As dessert is one of the most important and my favourite course of a meal, the desserts are a little disappointing. Although the choice is quite wide, there is nothing on the menu that particularly grabs my attention. I had strawberries with cream, which was served in a glass and there is rather more cream than strawberries!
All in all a good restaurant to go for a fairly reasonable but good quality menu of the day,with plenty of choice. However it is important to reserve a table at the weekends as it is very busy and it can be difficult to get a table!
Ingredients (to serve 2)
roughly 112g (4oz)fresh or frozen shortcrust or puff pastry (I used frozen shortcrust pastry to save time)
1 beaten egg
112g (4oz) frozen spinach
12g (1/2 oz butter
25g (1oz) cottage cheese
20g Parmesan cheese
a small clove of garlic, crushed
splash of lemon juice
1/8 tsp dill
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
1. Cook frozen spinach in an uncovered pan until all the moisture has evaporated.
2.Add cheeses, butter and the remaining filling ingredients and cook until butter has melted, leave to cool.
3. Roll out pastry thinly and using a small saucer/saucepan lid (about 15cm in diameter) cut 2 rounds of pastry.
4. Fill one half of the pastry circle with filling, then brush egg around the edge and seal well.
5. Make a small cross in the centre of the pasty and using a fork, press down with the prongs along the sealed edge to decorate.
6. Brush with beaten egg, place on greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 220ºC (425ºF) for 15 mins.
I had a bash at making Torrijas once before and wasn´t very successful.I think it´s because I didn´t buy the right kind of bread (apparently this is the main secret to making perfect Torrijas)and also I put too much bread to soak in not enough milk, so they didn´t get wet enough so this year I thought I´d give it another try. I used Mil Postres recipe for torrijas as a basis for making my torrijas and this time they turned out perfectly and were absolutely delicious (even if I do say so myself!). My mum did the frying though as she didn´t want any hot oil to spit out onto my pregnant belly!
Ingredients (makes 8 to serve 4 people)
8 slices of special bread for torrijas (if you can´t get this bread, you could use brioche, milk bread, French baguette or even normal sandwich bread, however it is important that it is thickly sliced)
1/2 litre (just over 3/4 pt) of milk
1/2 cinnamon stick
peel of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs, beaten
abundant sunflower oil for frying
extra sugar & ground cinnamon (for dusting)
1. Place milk, sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel in a pan and heat until warm and milk becomes infused with the flavours. Do not allow milk to boil.
2. When milk has cooled, strain the milk through a sieve and put bread in milk and leave for some minutes (about 10-15) until bread has soaked up the majority of the milk. (as pictured below)
3. Dip bread in beaten eggs and then fry in abundant sunflower oil until golden on both sides.
4. Drain torrijas on kitchen roll to get rid of excess oil.
5. Mix sugar and cinnamon (I eyeballed the amount but there was definitely more cinnamon than sugar as I love cinnamon!)together and then dip the torrijas in sugar & cinnamon mix to coat them on both sides.
We put them in the fridge and ate them the following morning for breakfast.Yummy!
Anyway, the weeks are flying by and I am counting them down...there are only 6 more weeks (well 5 after this week finishes) till I give birth, which I´m looking forward to,well, maybe not the actual birth! ; ) and it´s all very exciting. I´m not sure how consistent my blogging will be up to and after the birth but hopefully will find some time to blog & bake or cook!