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Anzac biscuits were originally made to send to Army Corps from Australia and New Zealand, serving in Gallipoli.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.

Eiffel dining, but not as we know it

Las Vegas is apparently the city that never sleeps and home to some of the most extravagant and lavish [anything] on the planet. We however, were a little more reserved when jaunting around in Nevada last month and tried to absorb some of the finer things that the heart of the silver state had to offer.

Designer dining is everywhere you look in Las Vegas as most people come to the Sin City for a royal good time, and what can be more centric to this kind of experience than decent food served with a smile.

The pinacle of the dining experiences that we had was at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant  No, not a throwback to European holidays, but in the Paris Las Vegas which is home to a half scale, 541-foot (165 m) tall replica of the Eiffel Tower.

The dining experience here is one of the best in Las Vegas if not only for the amazing views up and down Las Vegas Boulevard and the extravagant vistas of the Bellagio Fountains.

Once you have gotten over such amazing views, the food here is just tremendous. To start things off, there was an amuse-bouche of mushroom muse with truffle shavings and a cheese pastry to get things moving in the mouth.

Next up was the starters that were tailored for the season. I started with Autumn Greens: Roasted Beets, Walnuts, Bartlett Pear, Petite Frisee. This was a delicious light start to the meal and welcome relief from the hugely rich intake of the past few days.

Nina went with a more traditional start of Creamy French Onion Soup.

The mains were just as impressive. A friend recommended the steak in this restaurant, so I had to see what all the fuss was about and opted for the Open Faced Steak Sandwich: Blue Cheese, Horseradish, Crispy Shallots.

Needless to say that there was cause for fuss as the tender steak fell apart in the mouth with its sweet flavours and backup from the toasted bread beneath that served well to soak up anything lost by the meat.

Nina made her way through the Chopped Romaine: Chicken Two Ways, Caesar Dressing, Poppy Seed Tuile.

Thinking that the ‘salad’ option would be lighter, this was quite the helping. So much to say that I had my fair share and this mix of salad and chicken was pretty rich and thus very satisfying.

All in all, if you are in Las Vegas and fancy a refined meal with exceptional service, ambience and probably some of the best views any city can offer, you cant go too far wrong with the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.

Between courses

It has been a while since anything has been posted, and we are sorry. Not to make excuses, but we have been rather busy and unfortunately, the posts about our daily foodie frolics have gone dark.

We are slowly moving back to a ‘regular’ existence now that should have plenty of time in it to post on the internet about food. It is reassuring to know that there are people out there who do actually read this as we have been featured in our local paper!

Foodie fame

So here is to the frolics to come! We have plenty up our sleeve.

Brunch at Balans

It was shortly before noon and we were dashing around in Bluewater and realised that breakfast had been missed and lunch was soon needed. We opted for ‘Brunch‘ and were lured into Balans for an all day breakfast that had been advertised on a sign at the most reasonable price of £7.95.

A full english was enjoyed with superb loose leaf tea and seriously strong coffee that blew away any cobwebs there might have been. The ‘full english’ was made up of eggs (any way you like them), sausage, bacon, mushroom, tomatoes, beans, toast (white, brown or granary and served with butter, or a range of preserves) and ‘balans potatoes’, a sort of sautéed potato with spring onions and chilli.

This meal wouldn’t normally have made it on here, but the shining feature of this Brunch was the superb service. To be asked how you like the eggs in a full english (it is normally fried by default) and given the choice of bread for toast is service above what is normally expected. Water was also offered mid way through without prompt from us. So much to say that the service charge was paid without complaint.

We will be back to Balans to see what else this simply wonderful gem has to offer from an evening menu!

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…

Golcar Lily

The Golcar Lily is beautiful pub and restaurant in the rolling hills above the Yorkshire Town of Huddersfield. We were fortunate enough to spend quite some time here this week and enjoyed soaking up the relaxed and tranquil atmosphere the town of Golcar had to offer.

Not to be too distracted by the breathtaking views, the at the Golcar Lily is a local and regional favourite for a good reason. You really cannot beat sitting with a beer and looking over the hills, there are even cows – a rare sight for us Southerners.

Nina went with a fairly standard Beaf in Blackbean sauce stir-fry with rice, but this somehow managed to stand out. Deep oriental flavours came from this seemingly humble dish. Chinease food can so easily be got wrong and be left too bland or too highly flavoured, this was perfect and tasted like a homemade dish.

Mine was Crispy Belly Pork on a bed of Creamy Onion and Sage Sauce. The pork was cooked to near perfection and the sauce was a simple triumph of what can be done to add to the flavours of delicious locally sourced pork belly.

All of this was served up with traditional vegetables and rice for the stir-fry.

What can not be understated is the ambience of this place. In front of me was a delicious plate of food and to my left, the most breathtaking view, looking out over Huddersfield (somewhere down there anyway)

If you in the area, you must pop in to sample some of this local goodness and revel in the atmosphere.

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!