Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cheese and Chive Scones

I'm doing some data collection in a school for my dissertation. The children cook something each week, and last week it was these cheese and chive scones. It filled the school with a wonderful smell and made us all very hungry! One of the teachers gave me the recipe so that I could make them at home. I went straight to the shops to buy the ingredients, and made them that evening!

- 230g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 50 butter
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp chives
- 140ml milk

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
2. Put the flour and salt into a bowl.
3. Chop the butter into small pieces, and add to the flour. Either using your fingers or a fork, break the butter up and rub it into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
4. Add half of the chives and cheese.
5. Add the milk, and form it into a ball.
6. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth.
7. Roll the dough out until it is about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick, then cut out circles with a pastry cutter. Or something round, a glass will even do.
8. Put them onto a greased baking tray, lightly brush them with milk and bake them for 10 minutes.
9. When they come out of the oven, sprinkle the rest of the cheese and chives over the top, then place back in the over for 1-2 minutes, so the cheese can melt.

These are best served warm, cut in half with butter. I put chilli jam in the middle of mine and they were fantastic. You can also eat these cold.

Zoe x

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chilli Jam - Third time lucky?

It took me about 3 years to perfect this recipe, but I think I have finally cracked it!
Chilli and red pepper jam is the perfect accompaniment to cheese and biscuits, and excellent in a toasted cheese sandwich.

- 100g long fresh red chillies
- 200g roasted red peppers (these normally come in a jar with oil)
- 1kg jam sugar
- 600ml cider vinegar
- 6 x 250ml sealable jars (I used old jam jars, which can fit about 300ml in)

1. Sterilise the jars. I did this by washing the jars up, leaving them to air dry, then heating up the oven to 180 degrees, lay all of the jars and lids on a baking tray or roasting tray, and put them in the oven for 20 minutes, but try to make sure none of the jars are touching! Be really careful not to move the jars as you take them out, because they can break really easily when hot! The sealant on the jar lids may also melt a bit and go dark, it is nothing to worry about,

2. Drain and roughly chop the peppers. Core, de-seed and roughly chop the chillies. 
Roughly chopped chilli
3. Put the chillies and peppers into a food processor and blitz them - you might want to do this in 2 parts. If you don't have a food processor, you will just have to chop them really finely!
4. In a saucepan (a big one), heat the cider vinegar and dissolve the sugar into it.
5. When all the sugar has dissolved, add the chilli and peppers. Bring to a fierce boil, for 10-15 minutes. I will warn you again, be careful and watch the pan! I think that I have spilled some every time! The jam will be ready when you dip a spoon into the jam, leave it to cool for one minute, then can drag your finger through the jam and everything should stay still (the jam shouldn't run onto where your finger was) and then it should be set. Remember it will thicken more as it cools.
Think I need a bigger pan next time!
6. Leave it to cool in the pan
7. While its still warm, put the jam into the jars. I poured it into a jug, then into the jars. Put the lids on, then leave them to cool in a cupboard (not the fridge!)
WARNING!! Only pour hot/warm jam into warm jars or cool jam into cool jars! The temperature change may make them crack!

This was probably my best batch, the roasted red peppers definitely make it taste better!
I think my hunt for the perfect chilli jam recipe may be over, but I would still like to experiment and add tomatoes and maybe garlic. I won't be altering the type of vinegar or red peppers though.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

A recent phenomenon in the world of cupcakes is cuptails! Or caketails. Basically, cocktail flavoured cupcakes. I love cupcakes and I love cocktails! Perfect match :)

There have been a few big birthdays recently! These strawberry margarita cupcakes were for Rachel's 21st. She works in a cocktail bar and started birthday celebrations with a cocktail, so I thought it was the perfect idea!
I really struggled to find a recipe that didn't use actual rum. I had bought rum flavouring, as I don't drink rum, so buying a whole bottle would be a waste. Next time I might use real rum as the flavouring wasn't quite right and smelled quite orangey. I also wanted to use canned strawberries because they are out of season at the moment, so the fresh ones are very expensive! I spent ages looking and in the end I decided that I should just kind of follow a recipe, making my own alterations as I went.

- 175g butter
- 175g caster sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lime
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1 tsp rum flavouring (or 2 tbsp rum)
- 3 large eggs
- 175g strawberries (if canned, then drain and chop them, if fresh, then hull and chop them)
- 280g self-raising flour

- 500g icing sugar
- 60g butter
- 60g strawberries (if canned, then drain and chop them, if fresh, then hull and chop them)
- Zest of 1 lime
- Juice of 1/2 a lime (you can add extra at the end as long as it doesn't ruin the consistency!
- 1 tsp rum flavouring (or 2 tbsp rum and add extra icing sugar until you get the desired consistency)

- pink/red and green neon sugar (for the sugar rim)
- Lime, quartered and sliced

Before making the cakes and icing, everything should be at room temperature.
The recipe says it makes 15 cupcakes, but I managed to make 22!

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line 2 muffin trays with cupcake cases, or bake one tray and reuse it.
2. Cream the butter for as long as you can. 
3. Add the sugar, lime zest, lime juice and rum flavouring, mix.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
5. Sift in the flour in and mix again.
6. Put a heaped tablespoon of batter into each cupcake case. 
7. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
8. While the cakes are cooling, start to make the icing. Cream the butter until it is pale and fluffy. 
9. Add the icing sugar, strawberries, lime zest, lime juice and rum flavouring. Mix it together s-l-o-w-l-y at first so that icing sugar doesn't fly everywhere!!
10. Pipe the icing onto the cakes.
11. Sprinkle the coloured sugar onto a plate, and roll the edges of the iced cupcakes in the sugar, to create a sugar rim. Put a piece of lime in the side. You can also cut up strawberry pencils and use them as a 'straw'.

These are all of Rachel's cakes!

Zoe x

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paris and Christmas 2012

My Christmas holiday was rather eventful. To start it off, I went to Paris for 4 days, then we lost our blind cat for 10 days (luckily someone found him on Boxing Day!), I started my first job in a pub, and there was the usual busyness during the Christmas and New Year period.

Chocolate Eiffel Tower, in a chocolate shop in Montmatre

Paris was definitely a good idea! I had been dying to go for years, and my boyfriend's 21st birthday was the perfect excuse! Even if his birthday was in September!
Seeing as this is a food blog, lets start with the food!

Pommes d'Amour
I loved the Christmas market that lined the Champs-Élysées. Even more, I loved the food that they served on those stalls! It was expensive, but they served some nice things. Most stalls sold 'vin chaud' (mulled wine) and some even sold mulled cider, however we had an alcohol free holiday so didn't try any.
In French, a candy apple is called Pomme d'Amour, which literally translates to 'apples of love'. Isn't that cute?
They weren't the best thing though! 

These were the best! Macarons! 
I knew what was in a macaron, the main ingredients are egg whites, sugar and ground almonds. I don't like almonds, especially almond flavoured things, so didn't think I would like these. However, on our last night we were walking through the Champs-Élysées Christmas market and saw a stall with many different flavour macarons, and I said 'we are in France so we had better try their delicacy while we are here!' and bought two raspberry macarons. We had bought some churros just before, and decided not to eat all of them, so that we could get rid of the taste of the horrible almond macarons when we had tried them. No need for the churros though, the macarons were heaven! Slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside with a lovely raspberry jam. We felt really, really stupid after this!! All of this time being among these delicious treats and we had said no every time? Idiots! Those churros were pretty horrible after eating the little bites of heaven. We went back to the stall a few minutes later and bought 10 more! We had lemon, caramel, violet and raspberry. I can't decide which was my favourite, violet or raspberry!
Guess what I want to learn to make now?

On our first full day in Paris, we didn't know where a good place for lunch was, so we walked into a bakery to see what they had. We were still choosing when the staff were ready to serve us, which put us under pressure so we just pointed at what looked good and that was that. I had no clue what I had ordered, and I still don't know now! It was lovely though! I want to say that it was like salted, dried beef? An equivalent of Parma ham, but this was not pork. It came with cheese, I assume it was Parmesan, and lettuce in a baguette, however the baguette had pieces of sweet onion throughout it.

La Durée.
Ever heard of it? I hadn't until I started reading about Paris. They are the inventors of the macaron. They celebrated their 150th anniversary this year. They are located on the Champs-Élysées. I wasn't planning on going in, but we saw it and I was dying to see what was inside! Most of the decorations were mint green and gold, their signature colours, and it all looked very fancy. Once you go in and join the queues, you know you are going to walk out with something. We walked out with a little something each, because no way was I sharing! I think my boyfriend had a chocolate éclair, and I had 'Saint-Honoré', which was a massive choux bun filled with crème patissière and dipped into molten sugar, with 3 smaller versions stuck onto the top with whipped cream. It also had some flaked nuts stuck on the side. 
I was still in the 'I won't like macarons' part of my life, so wouldn't get one to try. Silly me!

Less about the food and more about Paris? Our flight landed at 10pm, so all we did was go to the hotel via train and metro. We walked over to the Eiffel Tower, which was a 10-15 minute walk away from the hotel. We took some pictures and wondered back.
This is a link to the hotel's website and TripAdvisor page.
I haven't been given anything to promote this, it is all my own opinions. I wish I got paid to do it!

This is a collage of pictures from our first full day in Paris. We started our day with a pastry from Fournil de Carole, which was a bakery across the road from the hotel. We walked past l'École Militaire, to Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité. We then found the Louvre, where we got in for free and saw the Mona Lisa, it wasn't as good as I thought! Loads of people were crowded around trying to take pictures and the painting was tiny! There were far more impressive pieces of work in there. We then walked along Rue de Rivoli and up the Champs-Élysées, where we spent ages looking at the Christmas market and going in and out of the shops. We went up the Arc de Triomphe, which had fantastic views, especially at the time that we went! We wondered the streets of Paris back to our hotel, where we asked the receptionist for a restaurant recommendation. She told us to go to Café du Commerce, which was just around the corner on Rue du Commerce. It was a typical French bistro, good food, good atmosphere, crazy waiter running about and lots of tables! I had onion soup, duck a l'orange with dauphinoise potatoes. We couldn't fit any dessert in! 
A ceiling in the Louvre
On our third day in Paris we had to get up slightly earlier than normal as we had booked a tour to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We had an English speaking tour guide that told us a lot about the Eiffel Tower and Paris. We had lots of the standard Eiffel Tower pictures taken! We then walked along the Seine river to Galleries Lafayette, where spent an hour or two looking around. We played a game - Who can find the most expensive bottle of wine? My boyfriend won when he found a 55,000 Euro bottle of wine! After that we went on the metro to Montmatre, where we walked past Place d'Artistes (Artists Square), which has so many fantastic artists painting and displaying their work. We carried on walking up the hill to the Sacre Coeur church, which has panoramic views of Paris. The one thing you can't see is the Eiffel Tower! I wanted to see the Moulin Rouge in the neighbouring district of Pigalle, however we were very aware that it was getting dark, we had no mobile reception so couldn't get a map and its a red light district, so we decided not to go. We got the metro to the Champs-Élysées, where we walked up and down the Christmas market again, and discovered those delicious macarons. We decided not to go out for dinner as we were tired and went to Carrefour supermarket which was around the corner, and bought lots of cheese and a large baguette. Stereotypical French dinner without the wine? It also only worked out to be less than 12 Euros!

On our final day we did lots of walking around with our suitcases, but we had already seen most things that we had wanted to see in Paris! We did so much on the first few days. The two things I wanted to do was eat more yummy pastries and find a bridge with all of the love locks on. This bridge is near the Notre Dame, it is called Pont de l'Archéveché. It was lovely to see how many people put locks on and customised the bridge. One person even proposed with a lock and attached another lock to it saying 'Everyone, she said yes!'
We continued our day around the Ile de la Cité, walked up Rue de Rivoli to buy souvenirs and quickly went into the Louvre again before getting on a train to the airport. 
I definitely recommend going, we had a lovely time! If you need to do it on a budget, there are some easy ways to spend less money. Eating out costs more money than going to the supermarket, eating and drinking in a café costs more than getting it takeaway, the métro is far cheaper (and quicker) than a taxi, walking is cheaper than the métro, buy bottles of water from the supermarket, rather than pay over 10 Euros per person per day for breakfast, go to a local patisserie and get a croissant or something, if you are between 16 and 25 and from an EU country, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and many other things are free.
Including the hotel and flights, I think we spent about £500 together, for 3 nights and 4 days, which in a capital city in Europe is not that bad.

This is our Christmas tree with most of the presents under it. I had a lovely Christmas, we spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day with family. I love having a massive Christmas dinner, but had eaten a few too many appetizers so didn't manage to finish my food! However we had plenty the following days as we ate the leftovers. I had some lovely presents from everyone, clothes, chocolate, shoes and plenty of bath stuff!

My housemate got me this Sweet Shop recipe book for Christmas, how cute! I can't wait to make something out of it :)

New Years Eve was spent at my local pub, where I work. There weren't many people we knew there, so we ended up leaving early and played SingStar on PS3 for a few hours when we got home! I spent the rest of my holiday working every day, earning lots of money to buy a car and go to Italy in summer!

Zoe x

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