February 26, 2015

February is always quite a harsh month, it is still cold outside, the sun has threatened a few times to present itself but hasn't quite managed more than a day and everyone still has to wrap up and layer up even to pop out to get milk.

Days like these call for zingy fresh flavours and a hint of spring. This lime and blueberry drizzle loaf is just that. Its also wonderfully easy to make, extremely moist and delicious.

You can make it the day before and serve it up for afternoon tea, perhaps in glorious sunshine, if you're lucky!

I based this recipe on Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake but swopped the lemon for lime and added in a secret layer of blueberries.

To make a small loaf cake for a 1lb loaf tin you will need...

3oz flour 
3oz butter
3oz sugar
Zest of 1 lime 
1 egg yolk 
1 egg 
1 tsp baking powder

For the drizzle...

1/2 cup icing sugar
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp butter milk

Cream together your butter and sugar first, then add your flour, eggs and baking powder also at this stage add some lime zest.

Divide your mixture in half and spoon the first half into a greased and lined 1lb loaf tin. Then sprinkle, liberally with blueberries and cover with the other half of your mixture.

Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and springy to touch.

Next make up your Glace icing. Mix together your icing sugar, butter milk and lime juice.

Once your cake is cool pour over allowing plenty to run over the sides.

Serve up one sunny afternoon for a taste of spring. 

February 23, 2015

This Cake is really zingy, delicious and perfect to lift you and your friends out of the winter blues. 

The spring green colours of the limes and peeled pistachios really adds to the finish of this cake, and of course a bounce of colour. 

These particular pistachios have been brought back from Greece from the famous island of Aegina. An island not far from Athens but one that has pistachio trees growing all over it, right down to the pebbly beaches and up to its peaks. 

We brought these back last summer from a friends pistachio plantation and they are still as crisp and fresh as they where when first picked. 

I decided to ice this cake with a 'naked' layer of icing on the sides as it adds a bit of rustic character to it and I think looks quite impressive once all your extra decoration is finished. 

To make an  8inch double layer cake you will need...

8 oz self-raising 
8oz butter
8oz golden caster
4 eggs 
1tsp baking powder 
50g chopped pistachios 

For the cream cheese frosting...
1 pack of Philadelphia 
4 oz butter 
Juice of one lime 
extra chopped pistachios for decoration 
slithers of lime for further decoration. 

Start by combining your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add your eggs, flour and baking powder.

Beat until all is well combined and then throw in your finely chopped pistachios.

Then spoon your mixture into two, 8inch greased baking tins and bake for 30mins.

To test if it is done see if it springs back to the touch and is golden brown then leave to cool. While you wait get on with your lime cream cheese frosting.

Mix butter, icing sugar, lime juice and philadelphia in a bowl.

Once your cake is completely cool pile the frosting on one sponge then place the other sponge on top. Next scrape a small amount of frosting around the edge to get the 'naked' effect and then dollop more on top for a luxurious spread ready for decoration.

Chop your peeled pistachios and sprinkle on top, add some lime very thinly sliced to add height to your cake sit back and enjoy!

February 21, 2015

This Irish soda loaf is one of the easiest loaves there is out there to make. Being half Irish I grew up on the stuff and Mum has been making this super fast version for the past few years. 

I had never given it a go before and seeing as it takes no time to make, no proving and no kneeding it was high time I gave it a shot. 

Its an all throw in the bowl kind of recipe and if eaten while still warm from the oven with some 'real' butter it really is delicious. 

To make a loaf you will need...

2 packs of butter milk (450ml)
140g bread flour
240g whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 bicarbonate of soda 
2 tsp caster sugar 
60g butter 
4 tbsp olive oil 

Start by lining your tin with flour, do this by coating the sides evenly, tipping and turning the tin until coated. 

Next put all your dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in your softened (not melted) butter...

Now add your butter milk and olive oil. 

...combine your ingredients, use a knife to start as the mixture is very sticky. 

Cover your hands in flour and bring the mixture together to form a dough. 

Turn it out onto a board and start to kneed, very gently, just until you have a smooth surface. 

Pop this into your floured tin 

Brush the top with some butter milk and bake in the over for 30 minutes at 200C  -  turn around and bake for a further 30 minutes at 180C.

At the half way stage you may need to cover the top of the loaf with some foil to prevent it browning too much.

Take out and leave to cool. This is delicious to have while still warm but be careful slicing it as it is very crumbly until it has cooled completely. 


February 19, 2015

The other night I headed to Barrafina with a great friend. We wanted somewhere to gossip, put the world to right and of course have some delicious food. 

Barrafina in Soho has just that. We had some prosecco as we waited for our table and then took it to our spot along the bar. 

We kicked off with some peppers, roasted, with lashings of salt and delicious olive oil.

Next out came the tuna tartare with the freshest guacamole you could imagine.

Along side these came the ham and cheese croquettes. 

Melt in the middle perfection.

We demolished all the first three tapas decidedly quickly and then it was on to the next few dishes...first feta stuffed courgette flowers.

 I had a go at making these last summer when I raided dad's veg patch. 

Next up was baby fried squid. 

Crispy and delicious, squeeze over the lemon juice while still warm and tuck in. 

We ordered one of the specials, baby artichokes with saffron aoli. 

Tasty, crispy and extremely moreish. The toughest part of this course was splitting the third evenly between the two of us!

We sat back, rubbing bellies before we tackled dessert... deep chocolate sorbet. 

This was just the perfect end to a great meal, gossip and wonderful midweek treat. 

You must check out this little tapas bar next time you are in London. 

You will have to queue but you can have a drink while you wait and really get to grips with the menu and it is most definitely worth it. 

February 18, 2015

This year for Valentines I was treated to a weekend in the Cotswolds at The King's Head. I was given a little warning. This gave me plenty of time to suss out the menu which is fairly new as the whole place was revamped last autumn. 

Situated right in the middle of the picturesque town of Cirencester, this hotel could not be in a better location.

Right outside the door you are faced with a plethora of cafes and lots of history. 

This is a very swish boutique hotel.  As you walk in through the glass doors, blazoned with a lions crest you are greeted with a modern reception where  everyone waits on gorgeously squishy velvet sofas and seats.

You head up to you room through the lounge area, so new you can still, almost smell the fresh paint. All delicious shades of farrow and ball grey,  particularly apt currently...

As you wind your way upstairs the soft grey corridors with the occasional  areas of bare stone all add to the contemporary feel of this 'Costwold' landmark.

In our room, fabulously spacious we were greeted with more velvet furnishings, this time all coordinated in soft ochre. I already have been converted to the idea that it is a necessity to buy a velvet sofa at the next opportune moment!

The Coffee table again, quirky but adds character and makes the room feel even more spacious.

We headed down to the bar to check out the menu once more but were slightly disappointed to learn that the usual menu was off the cards tonight and instead a delightfully cheesy 'sharing menu' took its place for valentines. 
One can't complain too much but, the Japanese Robatayaki dishes had rather caught my eye. 
We wandered around Cirencester for the afternoon before heading back for supper. 

Greeted with a glass of complimentary sparkling we took our seats to have a look at the various sharing options on offer. 

Starters you each had your own dish, I went for the homemade gnocchi. Which was delicious, a promising start, He had the quail and suffered slight food envy but never the less still promising.

The middle course...

A veg terrine, which as it sounds was a slight disappointment. Cold, jelliefied yellow courgette and aubergine didn't do much to get my palette going. 

Next up though our first sharing dish... fillet steak and sticky rib with potatoes and a pot of greens alongside. 
Not the largest portion but we felt satisfied by the end, even having left the terrine behind. 

After a little break, which was quite a relief- we had been somewhat sped through the previous courses... again a sharing course. 

Half of the dish really was delicious, white chocolate mousse topped with a quenelle of raspberry sorbet. 

Beside the mousse however was what seemed to resemble some sponge cake crumbs and a few raspberry pieces. Not the most elegant of valentine desserts, but we finished it all the same.

Finally some macaroons.These were light and, being a personal favourite, they were a nice lift to a more than a little disappointing, considering the cost, valentines meal. 

The next morning we rose early for breakfast. At £17:50 a head we opted out of the buffet continental and went for more reasonably priced a la carte options. 

A full english for him...

and a favorite, Eggs Benedict for me.

The rooms, the service and the comfort of this spic and span hotel could not be faulted and I am sure, should we come back when we could each enjoy our own meal and perhaps finally try out one of those promising Japanese Robatayaki dishes the food would also be up to match the rest of this experience.

Seeing as this was its first Valentines, this hotel could certainly be given the benefit of the doubt. I am hoping, at some point to return to see what this menu truly has to offer and of course sit on those squishy ochre sofas and read the Sunday papers once more.

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