About Nina

Twenty something who cannot stop thinking about food and wine. Cannot wait for my next meal...

Pumpkin Cheesecake

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For North Americans especially, Pumpkin is a quintessential autumnal flavour, and we love it too. Having been wowed by pumpkin cheesecakes in America and sampling delicious pumpkin pie from Canadians, we decided to try our hand at the former…

Ingredients

  • 400g ginger nut biscuits
  • 140g melted butter
  • 110g dark brown sugar
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 70g double cream
  • Can of pumpkin puree (we found this in Waitrose)
  • Whipped cream, maple syrup and pumpkin seeds for the topping

Method

  1. Crush the biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs. Melt the butter on a hob.
  2. Combine the melted butter and biscuits to form the base of your cheesecake, press into your cheesecake tin and bake at 170 degrees for 5 minutes, allow to cool.
  3. Turn the oven down to 120 degrees and beat the sugar, cream cheese, vanilla extract, cinnamon and ginger,
  4. Add the eggs and double cream, beat well.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree, have  taste and add more cinnamon or ginger if you like.
  6. Add this mix to the cheesecake base and bake for one hour.
  7. Allow to cool and then top with whipped cream, pumpkin seeds and maple syrup.

This has to be one of the best cheesecakes I have made to date, the almost savoury flavour really makes for a wonderful desert if you do not have a particularly sweet tooth.

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac biscuits were originally made to send to Army Corps from Australia and New Zealand, serving in Gallipoli. Although ‘Anzac day‘ is traditionally celebrated in Australia and New Zealand, on the 25th of April, I decided to bake these delcious biscuits for Remembrance Sunday, November 11th. I also added some raisons to my batch.

Ingredients

  • 85g porridge oats
  • 85g desiccated coconut
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 60g raisons or sultanas (optional)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C.
  2. Measure out the oats, coconut, flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup.
  4. Once the butter and golden syrup has melted, pour this into your bowl of dry ingredients. Add raisons if you are using them. Mix the biscuit dough well.
  5. Take small handfuls of the mixture and make a little patty in your hand, put these on greaseproof paper and bake for about 10 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Banoffee Pie

It really annoys me when people say things like, ‘I really can’t cook’. Anyone can cook, they just have to try. There are plenty of tasty meals and treats that require minimum effort for maximum taste, Banoffee pie is one of these.

To start with, you need a biscuit base. You can use digestives, but I prefer the humble ginger nut biscuit as it adds a little more bite. Put a packet of the biscuits into a food bag and beat them to death, they will soon resemble bread crumbs. Melt around 100g butter, mix this in with the breadcrumb biscuits and press into the bottom of your dish. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Now, you need the caramel filling. If you are in a hurry, use Carnation Caramel, all ready for you to go. Alternatively, boil a can of condensed milk in water for around an hour, it will become delicious caramel! Spread the caramel onto your biscuit base, then add sliced bananas. Ripe bananas are best.

Now, whip your double cream. I like to add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and around 25g icing sugar. Spread the cream onto your caramel/banana base. I like to add some cadbury flake on top of the cream for extra flavour and decoration.

You can make one big banoffee pie, or individual smaller ones. It is a simple, but tasty desert, that is sure to satisfy everyone that eats it.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Bea’s of Bloomsbury is a fantastic place to go for Afternoon Tea! A friend and I enjoyed a delicious plate of baguettes, followed by some of the best cakes and scones, I have EVER eaten.

Service was fantastic , we were seen to straight away and given a choice of teas to choose from. The teas are all real leaf teas and more hot water is offered, so there is no need to buy another cup.

A plate of three mini baguettes was then presented to each of, the bread was fantastic quality and each baguette was so tasty, my favourite was the salami and red pepper pesto.

Following this, we were presented with a selection of cakes: blondies, two different types of brownies, scones, a raspberry cupcake, a dark chocolate cupcake and other mini cakes. Everything was delicious, I have no complaints at all, and being a keen baker I usually pick up on a dry cake.

The sponge on the two cupcakes literally fell apart, the raspberry cupcake, actually tasted like raspberry! The dark chocolate frosting was like ganache, it was the kind of thing you eat and then are left speechless for a while….

The brownies were lovely and gooey inside. The scones were not dry but absolutely delicious, by this point we were struggling to finish.

I would definitely recommend Bea’s of Bloomsbury, to anyone wanting a delicious afternoon tea, somewhere that is a little less crowded than the places you might usually think to go. Booking is definitely best!

My one issue was that they did not offer champagne. I am planning to buy the cookbook, so watch this space for the recipes…

Pick n’ mix cupcakes

I decorated these cupcakes with Pic n’ Mix, hence the name. The icing does not look too great, I was in a rush and did not take much care, but I promise they taste delicious!

Ingredients for the cake mix

  • 200g butter (I use Stork)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • Tsp vanilla essence
  • 1tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam

Ingredients for the icing

  • 150g softened butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2tsp raspberry or strawberry jam
  • Pick n’ mix sweets to decorate

Method

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until combined
  2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mixture
  3. Add the flour and beat well
  4. Add the vanilla essence and jam, add milk if the mixture is too dry
  5. Spoon the mix into cupcake cases and bake for 15 minutes for so at 180 degrees, until the cakes are golden and bounce back when you touch them
  6. Allow the cakes to cool and then for the icing beat the butter and icing sugar until combined well
  7. Add the vanilla essence and jam, this should give the icing a pink colour. Feel free to add food colouring if you wish
  8. Pipe the icing onto the cakes and add the pick n’ mix sweets

Bill’s

Bill’s is a fantastic restaurant café that has expanded from one restaurant in Brighton, to nine restaurants all over the South of England. We visited the restaurant in Soho, and were very impressed with the ambience, quality / value of food and service.

We were drawn to the restaurant because they were giving out free nectarines and I am very conscious of getting my five a day. The restaurant has a fantastic warm feel, almost like walking into someone’s (very rich and expensive) farmhouse.

A bottle of house wine is around £14.50, which we felt was a great price for Central London. The food on the menu was very reasonable, around £4-5 for a starter and £10-12 for a main.

We had enjoyed a big lunch at Pho, so decided to share a starter of hummus, tzatziki, pita and crudities. The hummus was delicious, I loved that they used wholemeal pita (it just makes you feel like you are being healthier) and provided crudities including carrot, cucumber and celery, again adding up to help me to my five a day!

For the main course Toby went for a delicious fish finger sandwich and skinny fries, it was very satisfying! The tartare sauce was delicious and the chips were so salty and moorish!

I went for piri piri chicken on rice and added a green salad. The chicken was well seasoned, not dry but delicious. The rice was basically like paella rice, it was SO good. The portion of chicken was huge, I actually struggled to eat it.

We would definitely recommend Bill’s and look forward to trying more of the menu. The service was fantastic, we even paid the discretionary service charge!

Key Lime Pie

Fruity and zesty deserts are my favourite. So, following a big mexican meal, I decided to try my hand at a Key Lime Pie, I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but it was delicious!

Ingredients

  • 200g ginger biscuits
  • 100g butter
  • Zest and juice of 4 limes
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Can of carnation condensed milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
  2. Crush the biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs
  3. Melt the butter and add this to the breadcrumbs, mix well and then put this at the bottom of your pie dish to make the biscuit base, bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool
  4. Put the sugar, lime zest, juice and yolks into a mixing bowl and mix well
  5. Add your condensed milk and continue to beat
  6. Pour the mix onto your biscuit base and bake for 20 minutes
  7. The pie should be set, with a slight wobble in the middle
  8. Allow to cool and decorate with lime slices or whipped double cream

It is so quick and easy, but so delicious. The pale green pie colour is beautiful too.

Honey and Walnut Loaf

I love loaf cakes because you can just mix them up and throw them in the loaf tin. They are fairly straight forward to make and this one requires no icing, so it is minimum effort for maximum taste!

Ingredients

  • 190g butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar or golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 30g greek yoghurt (plain yoghurt is also fine)
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 70g chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Grease your loaf tin and line it with baking powder
  2. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beat
  5. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well
  6. Add the yoghurt and mix together
  7. Add the honey and walnuts and mix it all together
  8. Pour the cake mix into your loaf tin and bake for about one hour
  9. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

How quick and easy was that?

Lemon Tart

I love fruity deserts, particularly lemon ones. This lemon tart, or as you may prefer to call it, tarte au citron, is the perfect end to any heavy meal. I loosely follow baking genius, Mary Berry’s recipe.

Ingredients for pastry

  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp orange or apple juice

Ingredients for lemon filling

  • 5 eggs
  • 125ml double cream
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 4 lemons
  • Tbsp lemon curd (optional)
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. To make the food processor either rub the flour, butter and icing sugar until it looks like breadcrumbs or use a food processor, then add the yolk and juice (you can use water instead of juice)
  2.  Knead your pastry and leave it to chill for 15 minutes in the fridge in clingfilm or foil
  3. Grease your tart tray and roll the pastry out, dust the surface with flour
  4. Put your pastry into the dish, cover with greaseproof paper and put baking beads on top, blind bake at 180 degrees 15-20 minutes
  5. Once the pastry has cooled, remove the baking beads and greaseproof paper and begin making your filling. If you are feeling lazy you can buy Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry
  6. For the filling, whisk the eggs, add the sugar, then the lemon zest and juice, add the double cream and lemon curd if you are using it. Mix and add to your pastry, it may seem runny, but it will set
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 170 degrees, the tart should like firm but with a slight wobble in the middle
  8. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. Add an icing sugar dusting before serving

Enjoy! I served mine with lemon cream and raspberries.

The Garden House

The Garden House is a delicious and reasonably priced restaurant café in the historical city of Rochester near to where we live in Kent. I had lunched here before with a friend and we were both very impressed, so when in Rochester again and looking for a lunch time treat, I knew where to go.

The inside is very cosy, with around 6 tables in total. It can be hard to get in but we were very lucky. The shelves in the restaurant are filled with delicious Italian produce for sale, sources and pastas we had seen in small delis in Rome.

The menu is quite vast for a cafe and features open sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads, there is something for everyone. The Garden House also has a fantastic and reasonably priced set menu, 2 courses for £8.95, this is what we decided to go for.

I started with a delicious vine ripened tomato and basil soup, it was simply fantastic and much better than my own tomato soup.

Toby went for homemade hummus and olives, the home made hummus was fantastic.

On to the mains, I went for cold poached salmon with salad and potatoes and a delicious honey mustard dressing. The salad was spectacular. Sometimes I feel that Salads leave me disappointed and wanting more, but this was SO satisfying. The salmon portion was very generous too.

Toby went for a buffalo mozzarella salad with a pesto dressing. Again, the portion sizes were great and the mozzarella was so fresh and unlike any we have tasted in this country before.

We washed this down with a glass of pinot grigio, perfect. I would highly recommend The Garden Cafe and a visit to Rochester, the city (it has a Cathedral!) has a great deal of history to offer.