Pecan Pie

I really enjoy cooking and love seeing people enjoy the food I have cooked, I love throwing dinner parties because it means I have a reason to spend my whole day in the kitchen cooking food!

Being a pecan lover I decided to try my hand at a Pecan Pie. IT WAS SO GOOD. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but the pie was delicious and I enjoyed the compliments from our dinner guests.

You will need to do the following to make shortcrust pastry:

  1. Mix 110g butter with 225g plain flour until crumb like
  2. Add 1 egg and 80g sugar and mix until a pastry like dough is formed, chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes
  3. Roll the pastry onto a greased pie dish, cover with greaseproof paper and baking beads, bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven, remove the baking beads and bake for another 5 minutes
  5. Remove from the oven and leave the pastry base to cool whilst you make the filling
For the Filling:
  1. Melt 110g butter with 120g golden syrup and 225g soft light brown sugar (this smells amazing as it melts)
  2. Break 100g dark chocolate into chunks and put at the bottom of your pie base
  3. Roughly break 230g pecans and add put in your pie base
  4. Beat 3 eggs and then add this to the golden syrup/butter/sugar melted mix and beat
  5. Pour this over the base with the pecans and chocolate in
  6. Bake at 170 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 140 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes, the pie will looked cooked but should have a slight wobble in the middle
  7. Allow to cool and eat and enjoy!

Pre-oven

Stained Glass Pasta

Pasta can be so dull and is often used as a bland meal filler. It can however be the main attraction as we found out a couple of weeks ago with an intense masterclass from a real Italian about how to make Stained Glass Pasta. The idea is simple, make your pasta using a traditional recipe and then create pasta sheets with it using a pasta maker. Make it as thin as you dare and then lay it out on a flour dusted surface. Place on half of the long thin sheets, various herbs (the greener the better, basil and coriander are great) and fold over. Run the sheets through the pasta maker again to seal in the beauty.

What you are left with is a clear understanding as to how this type of pasta gets its name.

Let the pasta dry for about half an hour and use as you would use any other fresh pasta sheets. In simpler dishes the flavours of the various herbs will come through, but in a more complex dish like a lasagna, the flavours will amply augment the existing flavours.

Quick and Easy Blackberry Cheesecake Pots

Last night we were invited to an impromptu evening of food and wine with our fellow foodie friends. Off to Sainsbury’s we went to purchase a multitude of goods to barbecue that evening including; halloumi, aubergine and asparagus to compliment the lamb that was the main event. I was asked if could think of any deserts we could prepare quickly. I felt the pressure one does when making food for foodie people and rapidly began scanning the shelves of Sainsbury’s for inspiration.

I eventually decided on adapting a basic cheesecake recipe. To make the puddings pictured above you will need shortbread biscuits, mascarpone, orange curd, an orange and some blackberries. I measured everything by eye, just judging what I thought would work so feel free to take this artistic approach too!

  1. Bash the shortbread biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs, melt a little butter and mix this in with the shortbread and put at the bottom of your ramekins or desert cups
  2. In a mixing bowl add mascarpone, orange zest, a little orange juice and some orange curd and beat until all mixed in, spread on top of your biscuit base
  3. In a saucepan heat some blackberries, sugar and juice from the orange and stir until the blackberries begin to cook and release juice
  4. Pour your blackberries on top of the mascarpone, it should look like the picture above or probably better as my presentation generally sucks
  5. Chill until you are ready to devour

If you are as lucky as we were last night, this is a great light desert to finish an evening of Pimms, olives, bread, cheeses, meats, vine leaves, crisps, barbecued lamb, cous cous, asparagus, tomatoes, halloumi, aubergine and wine.

Sublime and ridiculous Sainsbury’s wine

Not being immense wine nuts ourselves, we still do know a good glass bottle when we have it. Not out for flavours with deep notes of moon rocks or hints of hens teeth, we will usually stick to something on offer in the supermarket or wine merchant at around the £4 – £7 mark as a guide, unless it is for a gift or we know what we are after for some kind of special occasion. In true british cliché fashion, the rule of thumb for us is reds in the winter and whites in the summer.

Always on the lookout for value (who isn’t), we were delighted to see that Sainsbury’s recently introduced a fairly extensive range of house wines that are aggressively priced. Having tried all of them, we can safely say that they are spectacular everyday drinking.

Our particular favourites are the Montepulciano red and the Soave white (this comes in 1.5L bottles for an amazing £6.69, perfect for drinking with friends at the weekend, or if we are feeling destructive).

Another brand that Sainsbury’s have been touting over the past few years is their basics range. This usually means products with the most basic packaging and corners cut somewhere in the production process with a price to match. We have however been thoroughly impressed in the past by some basics products, such as the mozzarella balls, these are made from cows milk (the cut corner) and are just basically delicious!

However, having sampled dirt cheap win in Rome at the end of last year and being very impressed with it’s crisp, clean flavour, we thought we would try the newly introduced Sainsbury’s basics red wine. It is only 50p cheaper than a bottle of House Montepulciano and comes in a plastic bottle. Mid way through a boozy night, we tried some of this and can cut right to the chase and say that it tasted like glue with a fairly strong hint of pepper.

Barista Style Instant Coffee

Work can be dull sometimes, especially when the weather is as dire as it is at the moment in the UK. I find light relief and escapism comes from a tasty beverage, often from the fantastic coffee machine we have on-site, but this week I was in the market for something new. I picked up a pack of Nescafé Azera from Sainsbury’s at the weekend as it was on offer and thought I would give it a try.

The promise of ‘Barista style instant coffee’ was intriguing and I was eager to be transported off to a side street in Rome amidst my working day. This was not the case.

I had given up instant coffee a while ago after not being able to shake the comparison to dust made by a dear Canadian colleague in the Summer. I was hoping this would be a solution to tasty instant coffee, but alas, it was only marginally better than I remember standard Nescafé to be.

Back to the grind it is then.

Tea at Fortnum and Mason

Any British foodie should be aware of Fortnum and Mason. Fortnum’s is a London department store famous for its high quality food and hampers. At Christmas time we often search the shelves for perfect presents for friends and family, ranging from their delicious teas, coffees, shortbread, chocolate and jams.

Fortnum and Mason is also home to four restaurants and a wine bar, we opted for the poor mans option and had lunch in The Parlour which boasts a varied menu ranging from ice cream sundaes, cocktails, open sandwiches and cakes. I went for an open chicken and tarragon sandwich and Toby gorged on a swiss cheese and mushroom melt. As pictured above, both were delicious and at around £7, well worth the money.

We washed the sandwiches down with some loose leaf tea, I went for green ceylon and Toby had an afternoon blend, both were delicious. Being a big tea drinker, I loved the whole experience from pouring your cup from the beautiful silver tea pot to tasting the delicate floral notes. Following the delightful lunch in The Parlour we both fancied something else….

Our greedy goblin eyes had spotted a pistachio eclair in the patisserie on the ground floor. Pistachio is one of my favourite flavours ever, when I eat pistachio nuts I often find I cannot shell them quickly enough to get them into my mouth at the necessary speed. We took the eclair with us in a box but ended up getting as far as the church just up the road from the store where we sat and began feasting on our bounty. Oh….my….science…I find it hard to articulate quite how much I enjoyed that pistachio eclair. You know when you eat something SO good that afterwards you cannot stop thinking about it? The sad thing is whenever we have been to Fortnum’s recently they have always sold out, so if pistachio is your thing I suggest you get there early for a real tasty treat.

Herman The German Friendship Cake

This is how Herman came to us, in a jar and then decanted into a mixing bowl with a device Brunel himself would have been proud of. Herman is more of a concept than a food, the premise being that you share Herman with your friends. The best way to explain the idea is to look at the instructions below.

Our Herman came from a good friend who is also a total food nut and who was totally captured by the idea when it was shared with him. There is something about the lengthy process of raising Herman that gives the final product something quite special indeed.

Despite looking rather like a bucket of sick every time you ‘Stir well’ the end result is a true culmination of the labour of love put into Herman.

I can give my full recommendation that Herman The German Friendship Cake is a great thing to do with friends and family and a further recommendation that the final delicious and indeed, as the instructions say, enjoyed with ice cream when still warm is just amazing.

If you wan to start a new Herman, then this initial recipe is available at the Herman The German Friendship Cake website along with lots of other Herman related things.

Dinner in Leeds Castle

We are fortunate enough to be getting married later this year at Leeds Castle, anecdotally described as ‘the loveliest castle in the world’, which is a statement few could argue with.

When signing on the dotted line early last year, we were invited to a complimentary Valentines dinner, hosted by Leith’s (headded by Prue Leith herself) to celebrate.

We were welcomed on the evening of the 14th of February with a tour of the castle and complimentary champagne to wander around with (topped up twice on the tour, naturally) followed by a formal reception in one of the many drawing rooms. From here we were lead to the Henry VIII Banqueting Hall. The place was as grand as it sounds and the waiters that were circling like buzzards were almost in a competition of who could dish out the most wine. I there discovered the basis of the phrase ‘flows like wine’.

So, after a while, out came the first course. It was a prawn and lobster stack with sesame prawn toast, topped with a herb garden salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It simply delicious and really set the stage and wet our appetites for what would come next.

What came next was a surprise, only once before had I had a sorbet palate cleanser between courses. We were served up a small glass of rose petal sorbet that was neither too sweet or sour, but just enough of a flick to do what it said on the tin and cleanse our palets for the feature presentation that was starting to make its way out of the kitchens.

About an hour after we had been seated in the luxurious surroundings, out came the main course. It was a theme on the classic of meat and two veg. Lamb on a bed of dauphinoise potatoes with a pea pure, served with vine tomatoes and peas.

By this time we were pretty full of both top notch quality food and a seemingly endless helpings of wine. There was however one last course to go. You might have picked up on some of our other posts that I am not a desert person, but if there was anything that was going to challenge that, what was up next would come the closest.

This was a sharing course, how quaint for a valentines meal right? It was called an assiette of chocolate, which crudely boils down to lots of different mini chocolate deserts on a plate. It consisted of a dark chocolate tart, milk chocolate moose and the best of all, white chocolate ice cream in a crispy sweet pastry case. There was also a raspberry glaze which was an unexpected delight. It was all tremendously chocolaty and satisfying, however, I still have a vivid memory of the white chocolate ice cream to this very day and takes the crown as probably the best ice cream I have ever tasted.

Leeds Castle offer events similar to this throughout the year, but can be up to £200 per person depending on the occasion. Would I have paid £200 fo this particular evening? You know what, I think I might.

M25 Wine

After dropping into a Ducati garage for boring non-foodie trivials, we were making our way home when we saw signs for a Vineyard that we had never heard of just off of the M25 in Surrey. Being fans of English wine and a keen interest in visiting vineyards, this was something we couldnt pass by on, literally.

Into Godstone Vineyard we went to find a rustic throw back to the 80’s shop and a cheery lady behind the counter who invited us to sample some of their wines. Three were on offer, a dry, medium-dry and a rosé. The samples were rather generous in quantity and we had a good taste of all three. I have to say that it was not the best wine I had ever tasted as there was a bitterness to all of them, however, it was more than palatable and you could taste the locality of the batch. The bottles have labels that look like they had come straight off an ink-jet printer which I thought was brilliant, as it gave the wine a very local and non-commercialised feel.

Although we did not fall in love with the wine, we did love the quaint little vineyard. It was established in 1985 and only sells wine on site. No deliveries, so you know any of the 3000 bottles produced each year have passed through the same check-out. We took a bottle for a summers day, and can recommend that if you are in the area, popping in for at least a tester is highly recommended.

The vines on the banks of the M25