Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Restaurant Review: Pizza Express, London Waterloo and Art of the Brick

The Art of the Brick: DC Superheros is an exhibition on London's South Bank of Lego figures - but not just any Lego figures. These are the DC superhero characters, like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, many of them life-size, made of thousands or hundreds of thousands of bricks - there is even a scale model of the Batmobile which is made of nearly half a million Lego bricks!

My husband and his brother, and his brother's children, really enjoyed going around the exhibition, which took about an hour. The rest of our group enjoyed it too, but I think it's particularly good if you are a fan of Lego or DC, or both!

I needed to find somewhere for lunch beforehand that wasn't too far away (we had timed entry ticket for the exhibit), that was suitable for children and that my husband would like. I decided Giraffe would be the perfect option, until I found that they didn't take bookings - and with a big group needing to be finished and at the exhibit by a specific time, that wasn't really going to work.

Pizza Express was then the next obvious choice as they would take a booking, and everyone likes pizza! The restaurant was good about the fact that half of our party were 45 minutes late; we were able to enjoy a drink and peruse the menu, then ended up speaking to the latecomers on the phone so we could place their order as we were worried we wouldn't have made the exhibition in time!

We needn't have worried as service was fast. I fancied something other than pizza so had seafood rigatoni - a mixture of salmon, white fish (Pollock) and prawns with pasta in a white wine and garlic sauce, which was really nice. Everyone was happy with their meal, which when you have a big group including fussy eaters, children (who are also fussy eaters but not the only ones), meat eaters and vegetarians, is no mean feat!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 Week 22

The weather was glorious last week which meant we barbecued outside (or rather, my husband did – the only time he ever cooks dinner!) three times. I hope it’s going to be as nice this week, unfortunately it doesn’t look like it is going to be quite as hot!
Monday – bank holiday.
Lunch - scrambled eggs on toast for him, poached eggs for me
Dinner -meal with the in-laws
Tuesday – working from home
Lunch - soup and a roll
Dinner- chicken breast marinated in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with a baked sweet potato and salad
Lunch- need something very quick as I have to head to the school where I volunteer at 12.15 - and I have a meeting until 12. So think it will have to be a sandwich
Dinner- my husband is at his mum's so I will have spaghetti and homemade lamb meatballs
Lunch- chicken salad
Dinner- salmon and veg/ chicken chargrill
Lunch - chicken salad
Dinner - BBQ
Lunch- Nigella's croquet monsieur bake I was going to make last week but didn't
Dinner- roast chicken legs
Lunch- Doing the London to Brighton rally so will hopefully get to Brighton in time for lunch
Dinner – something quick from the freezer as not sure what time we will be back

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Orange and White Chocolate Cake with Flower Nozzles Piped Buttercream Flowers

This is the cake I made for Mother's Day this year and finally tried out my set of flower piping nozzles which I got I think for my birthday last year - I hadn't gotten around to using them as I hadn't really made anything that I wanted to decorate with buttercream, but now I've seen how good they are I will definitely use them again!

The nozzles have different patterns of dots and swirls and allow you to pipe different types of flowers that look amazingly realistic and detailed. You just squeeze the buttercream out and pull up, which cuts off the flower -you pipe one at a time. These would work really well on cupcakes, or as I've done with different types and colours of flower covering a large cake, or you could do all the same type of flower on the top of the cake.

You use regular buttercream for this - it needs to be stiff enough to hold its shape but not too stiff that you can't pipe comfortably.

The cake itself is a recipe from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, edited by Lynn Hill. This is one of Lynn's own recipes which I adapted a little; I didn't make the orange syrup and I used more milk as I prefer a looser batter.

You need:
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
225g self-raising flour
zest of 1 large orange
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp. milk

For the filling:
150g white chocolate
grated zest of 2 large oranges plus 4 tbsp. juice
200g butter, softened
75g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190C / 170C fan. Cream the butter and the sugar and beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour, orange zest and baking powder and beat in the milk.

Spoon into two greased round cake tins and bake for 20-25 mins

When cooked, allow to cool in the tins then turn out onto a wire rack.

To make the filling, melt the white chocolate in a microwave or bain marie and allow to cool until it is still a consistency that you can stir. Cream together the butter and icing sugar and stir in the melted chocolate and the orange zest and juice.

Mix the buttercream (about 500g icing sugar to 250g butter) and separate into different bowls and add a couple of drops of food colouring to each one. Use the different flower piping nozzles in piping bags with each colour buttercream and pipe groups of a few flowers all around the cake. I filled in the gaps afterwards with green buttercream and a leaf nozzle, at least I think it was a leaf nozzle as it doesn't look quite right, but I still think the overall effect of the cake was good - and it tasted really nice too!

Below are some close-ups of the different flowers I piped:


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CAS Pink Heart Die-Cut Card

CAS means 'clean and simple'. In cardmaking terms, that means lots of white space; one main image or focal point and minimal embellishments.
I saw a blog challenge on Addicted to CAS calling for CAS cards with the theme 'pink'. I remembered this one I had made a little while ago and decided to enter it.

My husband and I were trying out my new Silhouette Cameo cutter (about a year ago) and used one of the free patterns as a test. Perhaps we didn't have the blade on the right setting as there was a small section that didn't cut through properly, on the left of the heart. I could have used a craft knife to remove the extra bit but in a way I quite liked the way it anchored the heart to the circle.

There was also a defect - a small tear, I think - on the heart in the middle so I decided to cover it with a small sentiment card topper saying 'to my wonderful husband'. With the die cut taking up most of the card, and the need to show the white space behind the design, I decided this would look best as a CAS card on a plain white background.

It's our first wedding anniversary in a few weeks so I could give this to my husband then, but I would rather make something special if I have time!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 21

Lunch: chicken salad with mango and feta
Dinner: salmon, new potatoes and veg in a cheesy sauce for me, beef grillsteak and mashed potato for him

Tuesday  - working from home
Lunch: chicken salad with mango and feta and hot new potatoes since I am at home - OR if the weather is cold and we have leftover bread from the weekend I will have soup
Dinner: ready meal and veg after circuits class - OR the salad I would have had at lunch

Lunch: quick sandwich - need an early quick lunch as I have meetings from 12 until 2.30
Dinner: out with my mother-in-law for her birthday

Lunch: salad - either as before or Tabbouleh from Leon recipe book
Dinner: most likely home late after a work event, so something easy from the freezer or a salad I can throw together depending on the weather

Lunch: salad
Dinner: fish and chips from the freezer for me, chicken and chips for my husband, or if it's barbecue weather which I think from the forecast it might be, we have plenty in the freezer.

Saturday - bank holiday weekend
Lunch: early lunch with my parents then a cream tea in the afternoon with my friends for a birthday celebration
Dinner: eating at my friend's house

Lunch: Nigella's croquet monsieur bake
Dinner: grilled cod with jerk spice based on this recipe - or with chicken for my husband, with potato wedges

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

KitchenAid Cooking Demo with Michael Moore

KitchenAid are known for their luxury free-standing food mixers (I have one in pink) - what I didn't realise is that the brand actually offers everything from kettles and toasters to fridges, ovens and dishwashers! I was able to see some of their products in action recently when I was invited to a cooking demonstration with chef Michael Moore.

The event was held at the KitchenAid showroom in London's Wigmore Street - a mecca of stand mixers with a beautiful display of them in different colours across one wall, as well as a showcase of other products and a full kitchen layout downstairs.

Upstairs there is a long counter where chefs can cook and demonstrate on one side while guests sip their drinks and watch on the other. I was late to the event (thanks to someone on the tube ahead of mine having a medical emergency meaning the train I was on was stuck in a tunnel) so I missed seeing Michael marinade some prawns but I watched him cook them on a skillet and they tasted delicious. The black rice was something I've never come across before and it tasted delicious.

Sipping Tattinger champagne out of the most beautiful 'open up' flutes from Chef  & Sommelier adding to a fun evening.

After the demo finished I got to meet Michael and have a chat with him - he's an effervescent, larger-than-life character who is well regarded in the industry and gives the impression of loving life and getting great enjoyment from what he does.

Michael Moore started out at the Savoy then moved to the prestigious Georges V hotel in Paris and has worked all over the world, in countries including Germany (at the Four Seasons in Hamburg, at the time the top-rated hotel in Europe), Italy, the Maldives, USA and Barbados, where his mother is from. He also spent three years at the Dorchester in the UK and later opened his own restaurant in Marylebone, London, which is now closed.

Michael's newest project is going to be The London Cookhouse - at the moment the details are shrouded in secrecy but Michael has announced this will be "a centre for gastronomic experience under one roof that will combine and complement each other providing interest and hands-on experience to all, despite their culinary knowledge and experience." I can't wait to go there!

The KitchenAid showroom

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blue Baby Bottle Congratulations Card

I spotted a blogger challenge on Ooh La La Creations Challenges for a card on the theme 'something beginning with B', which has given me the perfect opportunity to share this new baby card.

It's actually using a card topper I bought years ago from Ebay - I bought a small packet of them and thought I had used them all long ago and came across one left! You could make it quite easily by matting a piece of pattered paper onto a white card rectangle and then another smaller rectangle on top. The baby bottle is probably a die cut but wouldn't be hard to cut out yourself following a template or a picture - or even the real thing!

I used a rubber stamp saying 'congratulations' from a new collection that I think I got free with a card making magazine, on a blue card.