Thursday, 11 August 2016

Chorizo Scotch Eggs

Animal welfare has always been an area that interests me and something I feel strongly about. I think it's really important we all know where our food comes from and what the animals go through to get it to us. So, when The Happy Egg Company invited me to their farm in Tring to see 'the girls' that lay their eggs, I knew I had to go.

Although I'd seen free range egg farms on the TV before, I'd never visited one so I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about what I would see. I didn't want to be put off eggs for life, since I eat so many... Simply put, I need not have worried at all!

The girls are treated like little egg-laying princesses! So much space, trees to shelter under, dust baths and food and water on tap all day. Sounds like heaven to me. Check here for more info on the luxury conditions these hens are kept in.

Just look at all that SPACE! I'd love to live there myself, never mind the chickens! I'm now completely satisfied that these hens live a life of luxury and couldn't possibly be any happier. I will now ALWAYS buy Happy Eggs, safe in the knowledge I'm supporting this wonderful and humane way of farming and getting a better deal for the farmers too.

During my time there, I also has a great tour of the farm; looking at where the eggs are collected, how they are processed and learning all about the lives of the hens too.

Rather unsurprisingly, I left the farm laden with eggs and so many ideas buzzing around my head of what to do with them. One idea that just wouldn't go away was making scotch eggs just like my mum always made at christmas and still does to this day. But everyone knows how to make a scotch egg, right? I decided I'd put a Crafty spin on it and use chorizo style sausages rather than just plain sausage meat. I think this was a pretty delicious idea, even if I do say so myself!

You can find chorizo style sausages in most big supermarkets these days and they are delicious. Don't try this with cured and dried chorizo or even the little cooking chorizo as they are just too dry and won't stick together enough to cover the egg.

For the breadcrumbs, it has to be those radioactive orange ones you get in the supermarket isles by the gravy for me. It's what my mum always uses and what I will continue to use for anything that reminds me of her! If you're feeling all fancy, you could use panko breadcrumbs or if you have too much time on your hands you could even make your own! I'm way too busy (lazy) for that...

Traditionally, these would be deep fried but I decided to buck the trend and bake them in the oven. I'm glad I did, because they taste just as good with a much reduced calorie count!

Of course, sweet chilli sauce is a good friend to any egg dish and this one is no exception.

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Chorizo Scotch Eggs
A traditional scotch egg, but wrapped in chorizo style sausages for flavour. Oven cooked for a healthier meal!
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g chorizo style sausages
  • A small cup of breadcrumbs
  • A small cup of plain flour
1. Bring a pan of water to a gentle boil and place 3 of the eggs in the water. Allow to boil slowly for 4mins for room temperature eggs or 6mins for eggs from the fridge. 2. Rinse the eggs under running cold water until completely cold and then peel. 3. Squeeze the sausages from their skins and combine together. Separate into 3. 4. Taking a portion of the sausage, flatten it out into your hand and then wrap around 1 of the eggs. Massage it around until the egg is completely covered and there are no cracks in the sausage with egg showing through. Repeat for the remaining eggs. 5. Set up 3 bowls containing the flour, then the remaining egg (beaten), then the breadcrumbs. Dip the sausage-covered eggs into the bowls in that order to bread them and place onto a baking tray. 6. Bake in an oven preheated to 170ºC for 30mins, turning after 15mins. Once cooked, remove and leave to cool before serving warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 scotch eggs, two eggs for a meal and one for leftovers (snacking!)

I've found some other great takes on the humble scotch egg from fellow bloggers:

I hope you enjoy! Any questions? Let me know below!

Disclaimer: I was asked by The Happy Egg Company to visit their farm free of charge. I was compensated for my time in attending and also for developing this delicious recipe. As always, all views expressed are my own honest opinions and I wasn't required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

#HeinzSeriouslyGood Mayo Mash with Steak and Ale

Anyone who's ever had the *ahem* pleasure of accompanying me to a fast food shop at the end of a night on the tiles will be able to tell you how much I LOVE my chips and cheese smothered with mayonnaise. To be honest, I love mayo with just about any food I can get away with. I've even been known to ask for it in restaurants and get in a huff when they don't have any. If only it didn't need to be refrigerated, I might follow Beyoncé's lead and keep a bottle in my bag at all times!

So, when I was asked by Heinz to create a recipe using their new [Seriously] Good Mayonnaise, I was FULL of ideas. The brief was pretty loose; it had to use mayo, and it had to fit on a spoon. That was all! As you know, I like to show you how to use ingredients in weird and wonderful ways and I was reminded of an old favourite I stumbled upon by accident.

This recipe is the lovechild of two happy accidents. I first discovered you could replace the traditional butter and milk in mashed potato out of desperation. I'd boiled my potatoes and gone to the fridge, only to find I was completely out of milk and butter. What could I use instead, I wondered?! Then I was hit by a somewhat crazy idea; would mayonnaise work?! Well, I gave it a go and it was AMAZING. My favourite way to make mashed potato now for sure and this new luxurious mayo makes it even better.

And my favourite way to accompany this mash? Steak and ale, of course! I discovered (after forgetting to buy a pack of pastry) that the filling of a steak and ale pie goes really well with mashed potato. You don't need that fatty pastry for this dish and it significantly reduces the number of calories per portion when the pastry is removed too. Win!

Heinz' [Seriously] Good Mayonnaise is their best ever mayonnaise. It is thick, creamy and really really delicious. You can try it now and they're so confident you'll love it, they'll refund you if you don't! You really have nothing to lose by giving it a go. Upgrade your mayo!

I'm entering this recipe into Heinz' competition to find the nation's best tasting spoonfuls. If you're interested in entering a recipe yourself, check out the website here.

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#HeinzSeriouslyGood Mayo Mash with Steak and Ale
Creamy mayo-spiked mashed potato topped with tender steak in a delicious ale sauce.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 400g stewing steak, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 250ml ale of your choice
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 800g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2tbsp Heinz [Seriously] Good Mayonnaise
  • A splash milk (optional)
  • 1tbsp cornflour
1. In a large saucepan, fry the onion, carrot, steak and garlic in oil over a medium heat for a few minutes until browned. 2. Add the thyme, ale and beef stock and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low for 1 hour. 3. Around 20 minutes before the steak is ready, put the potatoes on to boil. 4. Once cooked, drain the potatoes and mash. Add the mayo and splash of milk and mix well. 5. To finish the steak and ale, mix the cornflour with a little cold water then add to the saucepan. Simmer for a minute or two until thickened and luxurious. 6. Serve! Feel free to have some green vegetables on the side.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 portions, or many many spoons!

How do you like to use mayonnaise? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: I was asked by Heinz to create this recipe using their new [Seriously] Good Mayonnaise and was compensated for my time. As always, all views expressed are my own honest opinions and I wasn't required to write a positive review.

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.

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Caramelised White Chocolate Panna Cotta
A delicious dessert, sure to impress even the most discerning of dinner guests.
  • 200ml full fat milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water and wrung out
  • 150g caramelised white chocolate
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!
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...

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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.
  • 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
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.
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:

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!
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