Sunday, 10 July 2016

Caramelised White Chocolate Panna Cotta

A while ago now, I showed you how to make caramelised white chocolate in a slow cooker and then how to use it to glaze a beautiful bundt cake. I always intended to show you other ways of using this amazing ingredient, but then other things happened and I never came back to it...

If you've never made or tried caramelised white chocolate before, you're in for a treat. It has all the creamy vanilla flavour of white chocolate but with an added smooth caramel note too. Not only that, it's the most beautiful colour! I'd like to say I only use it for cooking but that would be a lie... I love to make chocolate buttons from it and scoff them in the evenings. Oops!

So, here we have probably the most delicious and visually stunning dessert I've made with caramelised white chocolate to date; panna cotta!


I was always quite scared of making panna cotta and thought it was really complicated. Turns out, it's actually really rather simple! You won't be surprised if you know me that I wanted to make it look a little prettier than the usual dariole mould-shaped dessert, so I used a Nordic Ware Buntlette Pan for my panna cotta. I'd definitely recommend making a few extra if you're trying to impress, as they're a little delicate to get out of the pan, but I hope you'll agree that the gorgeous shape it totally worth it.

I served with a few dashes of delicious Salted Caramel Sauce, but you could use whatever you like! Even a berry compote would work well...



Yes, I did use the wine fridge to set the panna cotta. It's a nice flat fridge and the tray slides in nicely under the bottles; good job really, as all the spaces on the racks are full! Ha.

print recipe

Caramelised White Chocolate Panna Cotta
A delicious dessert, sure to impress even the most discerning of dinner guests.
Ingredients
  • 200ml full fat milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water and wrung out
  • 150g caramelised white chocolate
Instructions
1. Split the vanilla pod and remove the seeds, then put the seeds and the pod into a pan. Add the milk and cream, then bring to just below boiling point whilst stirring continuously over a low heat. 2. Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatine leaves. Stir until completely dissolved. 3. Chop the caramelised white chocolate finely and add gradually until completely melted and mixed with the milk. 4. Pass through a sieve and allow to cool until just warm. Pour into your moulds and set in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. 5. When ready to serve, I like to use a blow torch to heat the back of the panna cotta, one at a time. Once heated, slide a cocktail stick down the side to release the suction and tip out onto a plate carefully. 6. Garnish with the sauce of your choice and enjoy!
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 panna cotta


I hope you give this a go and really enjoy it. If you do, please leave me a comment below or tweet me (@thecraftylarder) to let me know.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Häagen-Dazs at Wimbledon

Sometimes, when I'm in the middle of developing a recipe, refining the recipe for the 3rd time, photographing it, eating it and then writing about it I do stop and wonder 'Why on earth do I put myself through this?!' Yesterday, however, was the complete opposite. Whilst sipping champagne in the sun, feasting on afternoon tea and ice cream and having a good natter with other bloggers, I remembered clearly just how lucky I am to be a part of this community!

You see, Häagen-Dazs are the official ice cream sponsor of Wimbledon this year and for the next 5 years and to celebrate they invited some of us bloggers to afternoon tea in the outside space at Forest, on the roof of Selfridges. 

Of course, with Lanson being the official champagne sponsor of Wimbledon it'd be rude not to have a glass or two! *hic*

The afternoon tea was seriously delicious, but the icing on the cake was definitely the ice cream. Häagen-Dazs are renowned for creating great flavoured premium ice cream and have created a limited edition of their 'stick bars' flavoured with handpicked strawberries and cream (of course!)


To be honest, I'm not really a fan of strawberry ice cream. I usually find it far too sweet and really synthetic in flavour. So, I was really pleased to taste the Häagen-Dazs version and find it wasn't too sweet at all. In fact, it had a really authentic strawberry flavour that wasn't overpowering and had just a touch of sharpness to it which really nicely balanced the sweet ice cream. Here I am enjoying a bite! (Yes, I have changed my hair. Thank you, I think it suits me too! ;) )


You can taste this limited stick bar yourself either by buying one from Wimbledon or in a Selfridges store in the UK or by popping up to the terrace at Forest in Selfridges, London where they'll be screening the tennis and giving out complimentary ice cream until the end of the men's singles final on Sunday. Yep, that's right, I said FREE ICE CREAM. So get yourselves down there to have a taste! More details here!

If you can't make it but you'd still like to try one of the other flavours of Häagen-Dazs stick bars, you'll be pleased to know they launched a range of 3 flavours earlier this year so I'm sure you'll see them in shops near you soon.

Finally, I'll leave you with some pictures of the delicious afternoon tea, just to make you drool...



Disclaimer: I was invited to attend afternoon tea with Häagen-Dazs free of charge. As always, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own honest opinions. I was also compensated for my time in attending and writing this post.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Antonio Carluccio and Cirio Tomatoes

You're going to be so jealous when I tell you what I got up to last night... 

At the Institute of Good Housekeeping Dining Rooms in Soho, London, I attended an event to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Cirio Italian Tomatoes and tasted some delicious food. That's cool enough in itself for a foodie like me, but it gets better... Who was cooking them? Only the legend that is ANTONIO CARLUCCIO OBE. I was truly star struck and he was every bit as sensational as I imagined. A true foodie and the godfather of Italian food here in the UK.

He was every bit as charming, funny, passionate and knowledgeable as I imagined him to be from watching him on TV and I am SO glad I went to meet him.

As I said, we were there to celebrate that Cirio have been canning/bottling/sieving tomatoes for 160 years now. That seems incredible to me and they surely must have been at the forefront of modern 'convenience' foods and food preservation in general.

I love Cirio tomatoes and will already buy them when I can. If they're good enough for Antonio, then they're definitely good enough for me! One of the questions asked of him at the end of his demo was 'Why should we buy Cirio when we can get supermarket own-brand tomatoes at a fraction of the cost?' His answer was simple; quality. "Sometimes," he said "you just need to accept you need to pay more to get the very best." Amen to that, Antonio!


He demonstrated two dishes from the cookbook he's developed to celebrate the anniversary. The first, Pappa Al Pomodoro, is a soup made with bread and served cold. I'm not a fan of cold soups at all and was expecting this to be disgusting but in actual fact it was delicious! So much so, I'm definitely making it myself at home ASAP.


The second was Cozze Alla Tarantina; mussels cooked simply in white wine then added to a tomato sauce. I didn't try this as I'm not keen on mussels but again the room was raving about it and I have no doubt it was delicious!


If you'd like the recipes for these dishes, you can find the recipe book here.

I even managed to get this image of Antonio looking as if he's showing us a little dance. He wasn't, but I wouldn't have been surprised. That's the kind of fun and light-hearted character he is!


I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into my evening with Antionio Carluccio and Cirio; remember me when you're next buying tomatoes at the supermarket. To paraphrase Antonio, some things are worth paying that little bit more for!

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the Cirio event with Antonio Carluccio free of charge. However, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. I wasn't commissioned to write this post, but I did because I wanted to share what a fabulous time I had!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Sushi Shop: Sushi Workshop

So, here's a bit of a weird one... Last week I went to a sushi workshop. Not so weird, except from the fact that I don't like sushi! I'm not a big fish eater so the thought of eating it raw isn't good for me. However, I am fascinated by the process and the beauty of it so I went along anyway!


The workshop was run by the head chef of Sushi Shop and featured 3 of the sushi rolls he has designed for their Football Club Box to celebrate Euro 2016. You can read more about the Football Club box on their website here.


Now, not being a sushi lover I can't review the Football Club Box apart from to say that the lovely Helen from Fuss Free Flavours tells me that Sushi Shop is the BEST at Sushi. So, if you're in London you've just got to try it!

Here's some snaps of my sushi making experience. I think you should give it a go, it was good fun!


Disclaimer: I was invited to Sushi shop to try my hand at making sushi free of charge. However, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Collier's Cheese and Bacon Twists

These. Are. AMAZING...!

I know it's not the done thing to rave about your own work, but I honestly this that anyone would love these sticks of delicious pastry, cheese and bacon. Well, anyone who isn't vegetarian anyway. Munch them for lunch with a side salad, on a picnic with loved ones or even just in front of the TV in the evening. However you eat them, you're sure to be left with a lap full of crumbs and a craving for more!


These twists are essentially made from just 3 ingredients, which means that the quality of those ingredients is super important. Get that wrong and it'll be really quite obvious.


Back in March of this year, I was invited by Collier's Cheese to Wales to learn about their fantastic Welsh cheddar. I didn't realise until the trip that a collier was actually someone who worked in a mine and the cheese is designed to be something that is hearty and full-flavoured enough to satisfy even the hardest working collier. The word they use is 'powerful' and I can't think of a better way to describe it myself! A delicious, strong cheese with a great texture that doesn't crumble to nothing or stick to your teeth.

I'll be writing more about the trip over the coming month or so but if you want to learn more about Coller's Cheddar, check out this little video from founder Chris Swire.


For this recipe, you really do need a powerful cheese like Collier's to make it work. They need a punchy cheese to work with the strong flavour of the smoked bacon. Get that right and they are perfection.


It's also important that the right bacon is used. You see, most bacon you buy in the supermarkets is 'wet cured' meaning that the meat is cured by immersing in a curing solution. This keeps the moisture in the meat and quite often with this method the meat is also injected with more water before slicing. However, most of the 'premium' bacon is instead 'dry cured' with a rub, removing some of the water and firming up the meat; it tends to produce a bacon with a much better flavour and also with a much lower water content.


Anyone who's ever seen The Great British Bake Off knows how much of a disaster excess moisture is when working with pastry. Mary Berry is not impressed by soggy bottoms and neither am I! So, be sure to use dry cured streaky bacon in this recipe and avoid a stodgy, soggy mess. You can find this in most of the supermarkets under their 'premium' label, or you could cure and smoke your own if you're feeling adventurous!

Making the twists is super simple, but the below pics are a good visual aid if you can't picture how to twist them properly. However you do it, they'll still taste wonderful anyway!


So that's quite enough talking from me. On to the recipe...

print recipe

Collier's Cheese and Bacon Twists
Perfect for lunches, picnics and TV snacks, these twists are sure to be a hit with everyone. Except vegetarians.
Ingredients
  • 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry, left to come to room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g Collier's cheddar cheese
  • 10 rashers dry cured, smoked streaky bacon
  • A few twists black pepper
Instructions
1. Unroll the pastry from the pack and brush all over with the beaten egg. 2. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and lay the bacon on top. Put the slices as close together as possible; bacon shrinks as it cooks and if you leave space between the rashers you'll end up with twists that are all pastry and no bacon! Grind over some black pepper if desired. 3. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut into individual slices and twist over twice to form the twisted shape required. 4. Lay onto lined baking sheets, then place in the fridge for 20mins to allow the pastry to firm up. Whilst the pastry rests, preheat the oven to 200C. 5. Remove the twists from the fridge and brush the exposed pastry parts with beaten egg to give them a golden colour when baked. Don't brush over the bacon or it'll have an unappetising white colour when cooked. 6. Bake for 15-20mins or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for 5mins then remove to a cooling rack. Eat when just warm or cold. 7. Best eaten on the day of cooking, but can be kept for a couple of days in the fridge in an airtight container. To crisp up, place back in the oven for a few minutes.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Around 10 twists


If you fancy trying your hand at more pastry-based treats, have a look at these recipes from fellow bloggers:


Disclaimer: 
I was invited to Wales to try Collier's Cheese and learn about its history free of charge. However, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. I wasn't commissioned to write this recipe, but I did because I believe Collier's Cheese is excellent for these twists!

Monday, 6 June 2016

REVIEW: North, Norwich

From the owners of one of my favourite Norwich haunts, Frank's Bar, comes North; a fresh new face in the 'up and coming' northern quarter of the city. You'll find this little gem just opposite the Mischief on Fye Bridge Street.

I went there for the first time a few weeks ago and I loved it!


First Impressions
The feel of North is just like Frank's Bar, with a lovely homely feel to it. Lots of recycled bits and bobs and quirky furniture really make you feel at home as soon as you walk in. The toilets were nice and clean, something I always appreciate! A great start. 9/10

Service
The staff were really friendly and attentive without being over-familiar. At one point, we struggled to find a waiter to ask for some salt but as soon as we did we weren't kept waiting at all. Oddly, my ice cream was served with a soup spoon... I'm not sure if that's part of the charm of the place or the waiter didn't know the difference. Either way, I'm not too fussed. 8/10

The Food and Drink
I went to North with my friend Rob and, naturally, we started off with a couple of cocktails. The cocktail menu is fairly standard; not much in the way of new or original combinations, but sometimes the old favourites are the best anyway! Rob had a Cosmopolitan and I had a Bramble. They were both great, just as they should be. Following my cocktail, I had a nicely chilled pink of Aspall cider.

We found the food menu to be quite limited. I'm not sure if this is because North is new and they want to limit the menu and therefore reduce the propensity for waste or if it will always be this way, but I'd say having only 3 main courses on a menu (none of which are vegetarian) plus a couple of specials just isn't enough.

None of the mains on offer caught my eye, so I ordered two of the 'Light Bites' - Pork Belly with Jalapeños and Pitta and Cheese Arancini (deep fried risotto balls). However, Rob liked the look of the Ossobucco and Saffron Risotto from the mains on the menu.


My dishes were delicious. The pork belly was soft but with a crispy skin and went well with the charred jalapeños and the arancini were wonderfully creamy and cheesy. Lovely little bites to eat!

Rob's risotto was a little watery and not as creamy as expected, but I'm told it still tasted great. He found it to be under-seasoned but I don't think we've ever been out to eat without him having to add salt, so I think this is more due to his individual taste and I'd much rather a dish was under-seasoned than over.

For dessert, I had the ice cream. I think this was locally produced and came in some wonderful flavours. I opted for one scoop of stem ginger, one of cinnamon and one of a sorbet (I can't remember the flavour!). All 3 were delicious.

All in all, a good (if too compact) menu with dishes cooked well and a classic drinks menu. A good 7.5/10

Value For Money
At around £10-12 for a main course and £7 for a cocktail, I'd say North's prices are about average. For food and drink of this quality, I think that's good value for money. 9/10

Overall
All thinks considered, I think I'll definitely go back to North. The dishes we tried were delicious and if the menu was slightly extended and some more original cocktails added, I'm sure it would have something for everyone. I know the menu at Frank's Bar well and everything I've ever tasted there is delicious so I have no reason to think North would be anything other than equally as good. A very solid 8/10 from me!

Disclaimer: 
I wasn't invited to review North and they didn't know I intended to write a review. I paid full price for all of the food and drink consumed and this review should reflect the experience of the average customer at North.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Charred Spring Onion and Butterbean Dip

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... The HUMMUS KILLER!

OK, so that's a little bit of an exaggeration but I am definitely completely in love with this dip I've created. So much so, I've banished the half eaten tub of hummus lurking in my fridge to the bin. Be gone, poor imitation for a bean-based super-dip!


Burning things seems to be all the rage these days; maybe you'd even go as far as to call it a 'trend'. People like my sister will be pleased about this, since she seems to be able to burn a pan of water and she uses the smoke alarm as a cooking timer... (Only joking, Sis! Love you really.) Seriously though, burning things is cool. I think top chefs think that to serve something with a bit of char shows real confidence and bravery in the kitchen; for me, I just love adding a bit of charred flavour to my dishes.

This dip was inspired by a Yotem Ottolenghi recipe for Burnt Spring Onion Dip. His recipe takes the onions a little further than I'd dare and mixes them with a lot of cheese and yogurt. Since I'm trying to avoid dairy at the moment and trying to diet, those two extras didn't seem necessary. How could I get a nice, creamy dip without adding dairy, I asked myself? The answer came to me in the form of a tin of creamy butterbeans.

 

This is about as much char as I wanted on the onions... Cooked and soft through, with some blackened parts to add a nice char to the flavour of the dip. You could burn them more or less according to your individual taste. Same with the garlic and lemon juice... Just adjust according to what you like; there's no hard and fast rule here - unlike baking, there is no science involved!

I love to use my Netherton Foundry pan* for recipes like this, but you could use any other heavy pan or griddle pan you have to hand.


My Optimum ThermoCook* made short work of blitzing the dip. I used it on speed 4 for around 1 minute, stopping to scrape around the bowl every 15 seconds. Perfect!

print recipe

Charred Spring Onion and Butterbean Dip
A dip to rival even the finest hummus. Combines the creamy smooth flavour of butterbeans with the charred flavour of spring onions.
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch spring onions,; washed, dried and trimmed
  • 1 tin butterbeans; drained, with the liquid reserved
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fat clove garlic; roughly chopped
  • A twist of salt and black pepper
Instructions
1. Start by cooking the spring onions in a dry pan over a med-high heat until charred on all sides. Roughly chop and add to the bowl of the processor. 2. Add the drained beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and seasoning. Blend until smooth; If using the ThermoCook, this will be around 1 minute on speed 4. Stop every 15 secs or so to scrape around the bowl. 3. Taste and decide if more lemon juice or garlic is needed. If the dip is thicker than you'd like, add a tbsp of the reserved liquid from the beans and blend. 4. Enjoy with a range of items to dip! Crackers, pitta bread and vegetable stick all work really well.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One large bowl of dip


For more bean-based dippy goodness, check out these recipes from fellow bloggers:

Disclaimer: Links marked * are affiliate links, meaning I'll earn a small commission for every item purchased using that link. I only recommend products I genuinely love and know you will love too; commission or not!


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