Friday, 9 January 2015

Cake Club - Fondant Fancies

This month's Cake Club theme was 'Retro'. Inspired by GBBO, I thought I'd give Fondant Fancies a try. I used this recipe from Woman&Home, but instead of yucky marzipan and apricot jam in the middle I used some chocolate ganache. Much better in my opinion! The icing didn't quite run down the sides as they should, giving my fancies a slightly rustic look. Ah well. The daisies were made using a mould.

Retro Fondant Fancies.

The winning bake was a delicious (warm) pineapple upside down cake. We also had a cool version of the same, and a coffee and walnut sponge. Ah, the memories...
The Winner: Warm Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Waiting for my bakers to arrive

Next month's theme is Valentines... promises to be 'love'ly!

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Monday, 5 January 2015

Lotus Lounge, Yarm - Restaurant Review

The entrance to Lotus Lounge in Yarm is through a Burlington Arcade-esque designer shop alley (with a red carpet which completely justified the wearing of my vintage fur coat!). The clientele appears to be a mixture of local young drinkers at the bar and groups of friends and families out celebrating the festive season. The bar area serves colourful cocktails while we wait for our table. Our table for six. For the two of us. Yes, I do eat a lot... Having booked ahead with OpenTable and tweeted to say how much I was looking forward to it, I half expected some paparazzi and some special treatment from the manager, but I think they were a bit busy. Lovely staff, but busy.

Lotus Lounge is billed as Pan-Asian, which I think was a good description. The starters ranged from Chinese Dim Sum, Malaysian satay and Japanese tempura to a selection of Bento boxes which offered a mixture of all sorts. The mains also featured a selection of dishes, each for a different cuisine. You can choose a Japanese Teriyaki Don, a sweet and sour chicken curry, or a beef madras. It's as if the place can't make up it's mind what to be, and tries to please everyone.

We chose the Bento Box from the Land to start. This was a mix of meaty starters, again panning the Asian continent; Nice vegetable tempura, flavoursome Chinese beef in char sui sauce, though the pork skewers were a bit dubious. I thought there was no need for the lamb shish kebab - it felt out of place.
Presented in, yes, a Bento box. With sweet chilli dipping sauce. Which doesn't really go with any of them.

Bento Box from the Land 
Worth a mention are the Bamboo Boards. Although we didn't order them, they looked quite tempting, as it looked like they were glorified starters - so things like chicken satay or Thai fish cakes, served with either Asian coleslaw or fries - presented on a bamboo board presumably. So upgrading your favourite Asian starters to a main course. Interesting...

Himself ordered the Thai chicken curry, which, as one of our favourite dishes, was a real measure of the food quality. It tasted like something I could have knocked up with a jar of curry paste and a tin of coconut milk and was a bit thicker than it should be. The vegetables were not the usual kind you would find in a Thai curry - mushrooms and courgettes.
Thai Chicken Curry

For me, it was Indonesian. I chose the Pork Nasi Goreng. Now this was good. When the waitress brought it, she said all the staff were jealous! It was a layer of prawn and vegetable fried rice, with two layers of belly pork and a fried egg on top, served with a mint creme fraiche and garnished with peanuts and fresh coriander. A real fusion of flavours and cooked well. Towards the end my green curry envy took over and I stole some of himself's curry sauce which made it even better.

Indonesian Pork Belly Nasi Goreng
Overall we had an enjoyable evening. Although the service was slow, the staff were friendly, but I did spy someone who looked like the manager just watching the others when he could have mucked in. My trip to the loo, turned out to be the kitchens, so I got a quick glance in there, and it seemed to be in order. The loos themselves, when I did find them, were absolutely freezing and the doors didn't lock. So it was -1 outside, but still. We left satisfied, leaving the young Yarmites to their late night cocktails.

Fairfax Court, 32-34 High Street,
TS15 9AE
Tel: 01642 355558

Meal for two, with beer ~£55-60.

Square Meal

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Red Velvet by Lily Vanilli for a 60th Birthday

My lovely friend's mum turned 60 just before Christmas. In all the pre-Christmas prep and chaos I managed to squeeze in decorating a cake for her. She requested a red velvet, so I delved into my new Lily Vanilli Sweet Tooth book for the recipe. I doubled her Red Velvet recipe for my 10" square cake and used the whizzed-up crumbs from levelling it off to shape the name and the 60. It was then slathered in delicious cream cheese frosting. My friend also asked for a bow that she'd seen on my Leopard Skin cake. Only too happy to oblige...

lily vanilli
I'm very keen to make more from Lily Vanilli, so keep watching. Also love her name! Puntastic!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Cake

 Only a few days left to Chrimbo! Time to decorate the cake for this year.
This is for my mother-in-law, who plays bowls with my father-in-law every week.
Decorated by their grandkids and dutiful son.
Merry Christmas one and all.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Tierra Peru, Islington - Restaurant Review

 Peruvian cuisine is hugely trendy at the moment, and this little gem of a place on Essex Road is the first time I've tried what is becoming renowned as the best of Latin American food. There's a Spanish tapas feel initially but both the differences and similarities become obvious as we indulge in as much Inca fare as we can.

Early evening, the place was empty but filled up comfortably as the evening wore on. A haven for local Foodies I would imagine, as well as an eatery worth travelling across London to visit. With simplistic Incan wall art and cosy seating, the staff made us feel welcome and at ease.

Choosing from the menu proved inconclusive as we all wanted to try everything, so in the end we went for two of the special platters, which was enough for five people, deceivingly so, as it seemed so little, but made us all satisfied. Pretty much everything in the menu was contained in these two dishes so it was exactly what we needed. 

The most traditional and possibly best known dish from Peru, is of course, the ceviche. These are usually fish and vegetables 'cooked' in citric juices and are served cold. A lot of  pulses and vegetables mixed in gave texture and flavour. My favourite meat dish was the chicaronnes de cerdo - deep-fried pork with cassava and chimmichurri sauce. Not hot at all - until the aftertaste kicked in!

Some similarities to my beloved Spanish food were the deep-fried cassava and cheese balls, reminiscent of croquettas, and much grilled seafood. Alongside this, the unfamiliar plantain, Peruvian corn, and palm hearts. The fusion of hearty traditional stews with modern unique dishes gives a whole wealth of new dishes which I will be more than happy to return to explore.
(Speaking of heart, one dish was actually heart, cooked and tasting similar to liver, definitely worth a try.)

Desserts were most unusual. Chilli ice-cream? What a paradox. But it worked. It worked well. The chocolate mousse with pisco, Peru's traditional spirit, was delicious, and the rococo pepper ice cream intensified all the dessert flavours.

Mousse de Pisco y Chocolate
Helado Frito de Rocoto
Picarones y Helados

We were left feeling totally satisfied, as you do when eating tiny amounts of lots of different plates. And also indulged. When I go back I know what I want more of!

Tierra Peru
164 Essex Road
N1 8LY
020 7354 5586

Meal for two with wine ~£80

Tierra Peru on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Chocolate Gingerbread - an non fruit-cake Christmas cake alternative - RECIPE

My fabulous food photographer friend over at Stem and Ginger, Karen, and I have collaborated to come up with a tantalizing alternative Christmas cake. One which doesn't need to be baked weeks or months in advance (who thinks about Christmas in September, really...?). And one which isn't your typical fruit cake laced with whisky, rich and ensconced in marzipan. This, my friends, is Chocolate Gingerbread Cake, with Cinnamon and Honey frosting, topping with sugar-coated cranberries. It merges all the traditional flavours; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, but also oozes the richness of a sumptuous chocolate cake, which, let's be straight with ourselves, is really what Christmas is all about. Chocolate.

Cranberries are fabulous at this time of year, and their seasonality is short-lived, so make the most of them. Blue Kitchen Bakes is a big fan and so I've joined her Fresh Cranberry Recipe Link Up 2014, with these fresh (Ocado-delivered) cranberries, sugar-coated for a beautiful yet simple finish.

My recipe, and Stem and Ginger's fabulous photos are featured in Fabric's Fabvent Calendar Day 9!
Also featured on Acardia Online lifestyle website.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake – An alternative to a traditional Christmas cake

Recipe serves 8-10
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Decoration: 30 mins plus overnight refrigeration


120 g unsalted butter
150 g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
240 ml buttermilk
100 g molasses
270 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60 g cocoa
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp crystalized ginger, chopped
180 g chocolate, roughly chopped


Heat the oven to 180 C, and lightly grease 2 round 8 inch tins.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark muscovado sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, followed by the buttermilk and molasses. The mixture may look a little curdled.
Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate, taking care not to over-mix.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for 35-40 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon and Honey Frosting


200g mascarpone cheese
50 g unsalted butter
120 g icing sugar
1 tbsp runny organic honey
¼ tsp cinnamon


Cream the cheese and butter together for about five minutes until soft and fluffy. Add in the honey and cinnamon and then sift in the icing sugar. Check the taste until you are happy with the sweetness, adding more icing sugar if needed. Beat until smooth.

Once the cake has cooled, level off the tops. Smooth some of the frosting over the bottom layer, then stack the second cake on top. Coat the top of cake (and the sides if you prefer) with the rest of the frosting, as smooth as you wish.

Sugar Frosted Cranberries

The cranberries are best prepared the night before to ensure complete sweetness. However, a few hours are also sufficient. Fresh cranberries are best of course, as they are in season, but frozen work as well, just remember to de-frost them a few hours before.


75 g fresh or frozen cranberries (not dried)
120 ml water
110 g granulated sugar, plus extra for coating


Make a syrup by simmering the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Place the cranberries in a bowl, and once the syrup has cooled, pour over the cranberries. Allow to cool completely, then cover completely and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if you have time.

Drain the cranberries (you can re-use the syrup). Place the extra sugar on a flat plate, and roll a single layer of the cranberries in it until coated, shaking the plate gently.

Place on some greaseproof paper to dry for about an hour. Once the cake is frosted, and the cranberries have dried, arrange on top in a random pile.

Recipe by me, Photographs by Stem and Ginger.
As featured in Fabric