The Crazy Kitchen: February 2014

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Friday, 28 February 2014

Tried & Tested : February

It's been a very busy month and there has been lots of reviews going on even though it's the shortest month of the year. We also managed a few days away at half term courtesy of Visit Cornwall, The Valley and Rodda's. Here is a run-down of what we've got our teeth into this month. 

Thomas Tucker Popcorn
Available in a variety of intriguing flavours : Fruits of the Forest, Salt & Vinegar, Sweet N’ Salt, Coconut Toffee and Chilli & Lime. We tried 3 of the flavours, my favourite being the chilli and lime. The other two were nice, but very sweet, particularly the Fruits of the Forest. They don't contain any artificial colours or flavours and are currently being trialled in selected Vue Cinemas.

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Knorr gravy pots
I've been using these for roast dinners this month and they are so much more 'real' tasting than gravy granules, definitely a winner. You can read more about our family Sunday roast here.

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I tried out a new set of cookie cutters that came in very handy when I made some heart shaped cookies for our Sport Relief bake sale. You can see the cookie cutters in action here, along with recipe for chocolate chip shortbread.

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These frozen pre-cooked baked potatoes from Bannisters' Farm were great and made a tasty and healthy lunch or small dinner, fast food at it's best. Read more about them here.

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Finn Crisp
These lovely little rye crispbreads are great for snacking on or as a light lunch as well as adding a little crunch to yoghurt and fruit. I crumbled some up and mixed with Greek yoghurt and some thawed frozen Morello cherries. You can find more recipes and ideas for using Finn Crisps here.

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Tefal Frypans
I was sent three different Tefal pans ready for pancake day. You can read what I thought of the pans here as well as a recipe for American pancakes.

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Jelly Belly
I received a box of 20 assorted flavours of jelly beans in true to life flavours - such as buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow and strawberry cheesecake. I used them in cookies and cupcakes for my Sport Relief bake sale, which you can read more about here.

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Dr Oetker Cake Decorating
When time is short the easy way to top your cakes is by using Dr Oetker easy swirl cupcake icing - no need for icing bags, just ice straight from the can. You can see the cakes I made here.

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Rodda's Clotted Cream
After a tour around the Rodda's creamery I used some clotted cream in mash here, and made some delicious scones here, where you can also read more about the creamery and it's history.

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After receiving a selection of exotic meats you can read here what we thought about ostrich, kangaroo and horse.

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Sous Vide Tools Thermo Circulator
I've heard a lot about Sous Vides from one of my favourite foodies, Reluctant Housedad, so I was really pleased to finally get my hands on one. You can read how I got on with using it for the first time here. More recipes to follow soon.

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Pop Chef
A useful little gadget that makes fun shapes from fruits, vegetables and other foods. We made fruit kebabs and heart shaped roast vegetables here.

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Nova Whisk
This was just going to have a mention in my round up but I loved it so much I gave it a post of it's own - you can find a delicious recipe for Nutella milkshake here.

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Pop Chef {review}

Kids love fun food and one way to make it fun is by cutting it into shapes. The Pop Chef from Character Online is an easy and fun way to cut foods into shapes.

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The kit comes with the pop tool, 6 shaped cutters (heart, star, circle, flower, butterfly & sun) and some wooden skewers. To use it you just attach a cutter to the end of the tool by twisting it on and then press into your fruit, vegetable, bread or whetever else you are using. To release the cutout shape just push on the rubber end of the tool - we found that melon popped off relatively easily but potato and butternut squash needed a firmer push - just watch out for flying vegetables as they can come out with quite a force!

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First of all we cut hearts from potato and butternut squash (it was Valentines Day), brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled with rosemary and baked them in the oven.

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We did the same with melon and Jack threaded them onto skewers.

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The Pop Chef was great fun to use and is a handy tool for making lunchbox foods more exciting, as well as being able to create fruit skewers or fancy sandwiches for a party. At just £9.99 I think it's a great way to get kids into the kitchen and the kit would make a lovely present.

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we were provided with the Pop Chef for the purpose of this review

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Nutella Milkshake

When I was asked if I would like to review a whisk it was going to be a polite 'no thank you', but I thought I would take a look at the you tube video mentioned in the email anyway....


Once I'd seen the video I was sold, I loved the look of this new gadget, and a woman can never have too many gadgets right?

I received my Nova whisk in green and set it to work straight away on my morning cappuccino. I usually use my Kitchen Aid hand blender to froth my milk but it can be a bit of a faff to get out of the posh carry case every time I need it, however the Nova whisk is slim enough to keep in my utensil pot.

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Just a few effortless presses on the whisk & the milk frothed up beautifully, ready to pour onto my freshly brewed coffee.

It's not just for frothing milk, and as can be seen in the video it has a number of uses - milkshakes, omelette batter, pancake batter, whisking cream and egg whites.

I decided to give the boys an after school treat and whisked them up a milkshake to share - it didn't froth up the cold milk as well as the hot but it was still lovely & frothy without any effort.

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Nutella Milkshake - serves 1

2 heaped tsp Nutella
boiling water
1/2 pint Milk
scoop of ice cream
Squirty cream
chocolate chips

  • Mix the Nutella with a little boiling water - enough to make a syrup, allow to cool slightly
  • Whisk the milk and ice cream together until frothy
  • Whisk the Nutella syrup into the milk, reserving a little for later
  • Top with quirty cream, the remaining Nutella sauce and chocolate chips
  • Serve immediately
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I was provided with a Nova Whisk for the purpose of this review

Actimel Family Wellbeing Index

The Actimel Family Wellbeing Index is all about getting families together and making the most of this family time together. They divide family wellbeing into 6 categories - Eat, Connect, Play, Give, Learn and Move, with tips in each category to help improve your family wellbeing.

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You can take a short survey here to find out what kind of family you are, then receive tips to help improve certain areas. After doing the survey our family type came out as Fabulous Foodies (no surprise there then).

Last summer I applied for the Actimel Family Wellbeing Fund based around 'MOVE' and in September I found out that my application was successful, and we would be getting some artificial grass in our garden to enable to kids to play on it freely all year round.

After a soggy winter the time has eventually come and hopefully by the end of next week our lawn will be transformed from the soggy, muddy mess that it currently is.

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Why not find out whether your family is a bunch of Fabulous Foodies, Fun & Gamers, Happy Yappers, Out & Abouters, Self Improvers or Happy Helpers.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Pancake Stacks

Did you know that it's Pancake Day next Tuesday? I can't really miss it, there are pancakes everywhere, everyone is going pancake mad, and if you can't beat them then why not join them! There are so many pancake possibilities, both sweet and savoury. 

We prefer our pancakes stacked, with lots of sauce and toppings. Here are two flavours that we've enjoyed this week - Rocky Road and Maple Cinnamon.

They were supposed to be buttermilk pancakes but unfortunately Asda let me down with the online shop and substituted the buttermilk with whole milk! Instead I added a little lemon juice to semi skimmed milk which thickens it up a little.
  Rocky Road Pancakes

Rocky Road Pancakes - makes 4

125ml semi skimmed milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
100g self raising flour
2 tsp cocoa powder
mini marshmallows, chopped nuts & chocolate chips
1 tbsp Nutella
  • Add the lemon juice to the milk and mix well, leave for a few minutes until thickened up
  • Beat in the egg
  • Add the flour and cocoa powder to a large bowl
  • Whisk in the liquid ingredients until just combined (small lumps are ok)
  • Heat some oil in a pan (not necessary if you are using a Tefal Jamie Oliver Fry Pan like me)
  • Spoon some batter into the pan & cook until air bubbles start to appear
  • Sprinkle a small amount of marshmallows, chopped nuts & chocolate chips onto the pancake
  • Spoon some more pancake batter to cover the toppings
  • Flip the pancake and cook on the other side for a minute or two
  • Repeat with the remaining mixture
  • To make the chocolate sauce mix the Nutella with a little boiling water & spoon over the stack of pancakes - serve by cutting slices

Rocky Road Pancakes Rocky Road Pancakes

Maple Cinnamon Pancakes - makes 7/8

150ml semi skimmed milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Maple syrup
1 egg
100g self raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Maple syrup for serving
  • Add the lemon juice to the milk and mix well, leave for a few minutes until thickened up
  • Beat in the egg & maple syrup
  • Add the flour and cinnamon to a large bowl
  • Whisk in the liquid ingredients until just combined (small lumps are ok)
  • Heat some oil in a pan (not necessary if you are using a Tefal Jamie Oliver Fry Pan like me)
  • Spoon some batter into the pan & cook until air bubbles start to appear
  • Flip the pancake and cook on the other side for a minute or two
  • Repeat with the remaining mixture
  • Serve a stack of pancakes with maple syrup

Maple Cinnamon Pancakes

I was provided with the Tefal Jamie Oliver pan to use for my pancake recipes

Tefal currently have a Pancake Selfie app - why not bake yourself into a pancake - try it out here.

Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream

Last week I was invited down to Cornwall to have a tour of the Rodda's Creamery in Scorrier, near Redruth. As I'm in the Midlands it was a bit far to go for a couple of hours but The Valley in Carnon Downs kindly accommodated us for a couple of nights (read more about our stay here and here).

Rodda's started their journey into clotted cream making in 1890 when Eliza Jane made it in her farmhouse kitchen. Before long she was transporting it to London where it was stocked in top food shops.

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image courtesy of Rodda's  

The cream is no longer made in the farmhouse kitchen and is instead produced in larger batches in the nearby creamery. Until I entered the creamery I hadn't even considered how clotted cream was made. It was really interesting to see the process from the milk entering the building, separating the cream from the milk, then baking the cream and packaging it, using a very clever machine that glues and folds the cardboard sleeve so quickly and efficiently, it was mesmerising!

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image courtesy of Rodda's

Baking the cream is what gives it the crusted top, characteristic to clotted cream. These days the cream is baked in the retail containers to make sure that none of the crust is lost.

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image courtesy of Rodda's

Everyone that I met at Rodda's seemed to love their jobs and it appeared to be a great place to work, a workplace that really looks after their staff. This doesn't just apply to the staff working at the creamery but also to the farmers, all farming within a 30 mile radius of the creamery. There is a good relationship between Rodda's and their farmers and in turn between the farmers and their cows, happy cows produce good milk!

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In 1998 (after 5 years of campaigning) Rodda's were awarded the Protected Designation of Origin, designed to protect traditional regional foods against imitation. This means that when you read 'Cornish Clotted Cream' on a label you can be sure that it has been made in Cornwall by the authentic and traditional local method, using Cornish milk.

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The clotted cream is produced in a variety of sizes and is available throughout the UK as well as being available overseas, but it's not just clotted cream that they make these days - their current range of products include pouring cream, crème fraîche, butter, fudge, shortbread, milk (only available locally) and a cream tea box with everything you need for a cream tea for one.

I was lucky enough to receive a few samples to take home with me, and it's amazing how far one pot of cream will go - we first enjoyed some with scones and jam in Torquay, then with apple crumble in Cheltenham, and then left the remainder of that pot for the new owners to enjoy the following day with their home made scones. It seemed a good exchange for a jar of my sister in laws blackberry to accompany my second pot of sumptuous clotted cream.

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I used the recipe on the Rodda's website here to make these delicious scones.

makes: 12 
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
15g baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g salted butter, diced
250ml milk
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
227g pot of Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream
200g good-quality strawberry jam (preferably homemade)
Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Using just your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it is no longer visible. Add the milk and mix well. Once it starts to come together, turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until it forms a smooth, soft dough.
Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C/gas 6. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 2.5 cm thick and cut into rounds with a 5cm cutter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the tops of the scones twice with the beaten egg.
Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. Do not over-bake them or they will be dry. Serve warm with the Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam.

For more great recipes check out the website, and here for my Clotted Cream and Rosemary Mash.

If you would like to have the chance to win some Rodda's goodies then why not enter their '#crownyourpuds monthly contest on Instagram.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Warburtons Magic Pancakes

With Pancake Day next week Warburtons are getting a little excited about their new pancakes available in plain, cookie and chocolate chip varieties.

Over on their Facebook page they have a competition where you can win £1000 of supermarket vouchers, just by topping your pancake, taking a pic and posting it on their page.

Ahead of pancake day we were lucky enough to be sent a Magic Pancake Kit containing a variety of topping combinations to try out. There were a few suggested toppings listed on the box...

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Unfortunately for us though, we were away when the delivery was made so our box spent 5 days sitting under a bench in our garden so we avoided the fresh toppings to be on the safe side.

Instead we opted for 'the bigger the better' and stacked the pancakes up, layered with granola, cinnamon, coconut and melted chocolate, with a blob of Rodda's clotted cream and some Maple syrup on the top for good measure...

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I received the pancake kit for the purpose of this review

Peppered Ostrich Steak and Clotted Cream & Rosemary Mash

This is not an everyday meal, well not in this house anyway. In fact we don't eat any kind of steak very often, we are more of a pork chop kind of family. However, I was sent a selection of exotic meats and fish from Kezie Foods, including Kangaroo, Venison and Horse to name a few.

I also received a PolyScience Sous Vide Discovery Thermal Circulator from Sous Vide Tools during half term but didn't have chance to get it out of the box whilst the children were around so it was the perfect opportunity to try it out with the exotic meats. I've not used one before but have been reading up on it a little in the Sous Vide Cookbook that I also received.

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I set the Thermal Circulator up on the side of a large pot filled with water, set the temperature (I opted for 63C) and left it to do it's stuff whilst I went on the school run. It didn't take long to reach temperature and was then ready for cooking. I rubbed some garlic and black pepper into the steaks (kangaroo & horse), sealed them in vacuum bags and popped them in the water bath for 3 hours. The ostrich steak was already precooked so I set that aside to pan fry later.

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I made a creamy mash with some delicious Rodda's clotted cream that I had picked up on a tour of their creamery last week (more on that in another blog post) to serve with the steaks.

Clotted Cream & Rosemary Mash - serves 3-4

600g potatoes (approx)
large knob of butter
heaped dessertspoonful of Clotted Cream
tbsp Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

  • Peel and chop the potatoes and boil until tender
  • Drain the potatoes and mash them
  • Add the butter, clotted cream, rosemary and salt & pepper and mash well

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Once the kangaroo and horse steaks were cooked I heated some butter in a frying pan and seared these and the precooked ostrich for around 30 -60 seconds on each side, adding extra freshly ground black pepper.
Once the steaks had been seared I added a spoonful of clotted cream and more course ground black pepper to the remaining butter and spooned this over the steaks when serving.

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The ostrich was perfectly cooked and lovely and tender. As it was the first time using the Sous Vide I didn't want to undercook the steaks as I don't like meat too rare, but these were perhaps a little over done so next time I will try cooking to 60C.

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I wasn't very keen on the kangaroo, a little less tender than the horse and ostrich and a bit too 'meaty' tasting for me. The husband tried all of the meats and really liked the ostrich but wasn't keen on the horse or kangaroo.

I heated up some of the remaining kangaroo and horse with onions, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and herbs and blended it up to make a pasta sauce for the children, and they ate the lot - although I haven't yet told them what it was!

OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder - perfect for cooking or on the table, adjustable from fine to course grind and leaves no mess behind as it grinds from the top. I have owned so many pepper grinders in the past and have never found one that grinds as easily and reliably as this. I have also been searching for a decent, inexpensive, garlic press that presses the garlic without effort or the need for peeling - I have now found it in the OXO Good Grips Garlic Press - a one piece press with no fiddly inserts.

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I was provided with the PolyScience
Sous Vide Discovery Thermal Circulator from Sous Vide Tools, Kezie Foods exotic meats, OXO Good grips tools and Rodda's Cream and butter to feature on this blog

Sport Relief Bake Sale

Just over a week ago I took part in the Team Honk Relay for Sport Relief when the baton came to the Midlands. We had a great day and managed to more than double our fundraising target. Much of the money that I raised was from a bake sale that I held in my local pub.

For a couple of days before the bake sale I was busy making flapjacks, cookies, cupcakes and Victoria sponge and then on the day of the bake sale friends donated cakes that they had made.

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Jelly Belly sent a box of jelly beans to use in my baking and I used them to make some jellybean cookies and cupcakes decorated with jelly beans.

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Dr Oetker sent a selection of chocolate which was used in cookies and to drizzle over the flapjacks, and some Easy Swirl icing which was used to top the cupcakes.

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We had s0 many cakes that I didn't think we would manage to sell them all, but the bake sale went amazingly and we raised £107 on the night and £32 on the run up by selling cookies that I'd made and sold to friends that couldn't make the sale. We went on to sell the remaining cakes at the railway station the following day and to travellers on the train from my makeshift cake tray. With the cake sales and donations that day we managed to raise an additional £170.

Thanks to Jelly Belly and Dr Oetker for sending the products shown above to use in the bake sale

Monday, 24 February 2014

Visit Cornwall (part 2)

Last week saw us visit Cornwall for a few days during half term. We stayed in a bedroom cottage at The Valley near Carnon Downs.

It's quite a trek down to Cornwall from the Midlands but the traffic wasn't too busy and the weather was good for most of the journey. We arrived early afternoon and hoped that our cottage would be ready for us. We were greeted in reception by a friendly welcome and told that our cottage was all ready for us, given some info and confirmed that a reservation had been made in the restaurant for that evening (more on that here).

The Valley site isn't too large and our cottage was only a couple of minutes drive from the main reception, past the centrally located restaurant, swimming pool and games room. We were staying in a 3 bedroom Croft cottage, complete with 6ft beds and 3 bathrooms. Entry to the cottage was around the back, past a little secluded patio area, and into a hallway with large storage cupboard, perfect for our many pairs of boots and shoes.

The cottage then opened out into a large open plan kitchen / dining /  living area, with fully fitted modern kitchen, dining table with 6 chairs, and two sofas in the living area complete with flatscreen tv and dvd player.

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Two of the bedrooms were downstairs, a double with 6ft bed and ensuite shower room, and a twin bedded room with a family bathroom next door.

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Upstairs there was a large master suite with 6ft bed and shower room, with a large dressing table overlooking the valley, and plenty of storage in wardrobes and drawers.

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All the beds had duvets and blankets on and were made up on arrival, and fluffy white towels were provided, as were complimentary toiletries, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets and tea towels.

Toys and games were available to borrow from the reception area, along with DVD's at no charge and free wifi was available throughout the site.

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On site the was a good choice of facilities including swimming pools (indoor & outdoor), jacuzzi, pool tables, table tennis, tennis & squash courts, play areas and gym. The site is secure, with a gated entry system only available to guests and 5mph restrictions in place around the roads. It is well positioned for sightseeing around Cornwall, being only a short drive from Falmouth and Truro.

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moving out!

I would definitely recommend The Valley for a peaceful family break in Cornwall, with all the independence of a cottage holiday and the convenience of a site, with the restaurant and facilities.

For more information on what to do and see and places to stay in Cornwall go to Visit Cornwall.


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