Saturday, 29 December 2012

Jordan Country Crisp Super Berry

Jordans have been flour millers for over 150 years and in 1972 brothers Bill and David Jordan began making cereals from their mill in Biggleswade in Bedfordshire and one of my favourites has always been Original Crunchy and now Country Crisp.

All their products are grown on a nature friendly Conservation Grade (TM) British farms which ensures that bees, birds and butterflies can survive. Jordans are also ensuring that British farms and rural communities have a sustainable future.

Recently I was sent a box of their new Country Crisp Super Berry (RRP £2.69 for 500g box) to try.  Mr R does like his cereals for breakfast so I had to be quick to have some for my breakfast the other morning!

It is really nice enjoying your breakfast and knowing it is healthy and cares for the countryside too.

When you pour the milk on your bowl of Country Crisp Super Berry it is a hard decision whether to eat immediately whilst the clusters are really crisp or wait a few minutes for the fruit to re-hydrate and become soft.  Today I went for the latter option and waited till the milk went light blue and the berries were soft but I was delighted to see that the clusters were still crunchy!

You know what this means? I will have to get earlier than Mr R to make sure I can have some of this luscious cereal for my breakfast tomorrow!

(You can follow Jordans on FaceBook or Twitter)

Home Made Medicine - Soup Glorious Soup!!

It doesn't matter if you have a Vitamix, a Cuisinart Soup Maker or any other make or even if you just have a large pot but just make yourself some home made soup.  It is so easy to make a good quality and delicious soup and so many different flavours - the choice is really endless.

First start with something simple and master the art of making a good stock.  The most popular are chicken, beef, fish and vegetable. There is one that I only make at this time of year and that is of course turkey stock.  The family cheer when I am making it as it means no more turkey left over dishes!!

I get out my big stock pot, put all the turkey carcass and bones into it, cover with water and put it on to bring up to the boil.  I usually add some onion, celery and carrot roughly chopped and just leave it all to simmer for a couple of hours.

Yesterday I put the carcass from our Christmas turkey on to make a stock and was rewarded with the most awesome broth.  This morning I turned the broth into one of my favourite soups for lunch - celery soup.

A knob of butter and a tablespoon of light oil in a stock pot and when it was warm I added one onion roughly chopped and a whole head of celery cut up. 

Leave this all to simmer till the celery is tender and then blitz  with a stick blender. To give the soup a little subtle background flavour I popped in two whole cardamon seeds and removed them just before blitzing. I also added salt and pepper and a small amount of Gran Luchito Mexican chilli paste - I didn't add enough to make it hot but just to give a shimmer of mmmmmmm.

That's all you need to do for a simple, nourishing meal with a hunk of fresh bread and GOURMET!

Of course, then Mr R comes into the dining room with a tin of spaghetti and meatballs for lunch - I despair!!!

Friday, 28 December 2012

A Blogger's Christmas Carol - Christmas Present

Traditionally over the last 5-6 years I have sat back and let the Father-in-law prep and cook the Christmas meal.  This year as FIL is nearly 80 and MIL is not physically able to help much with the meal I decided that it was my turn.  We usually stay overnight for a couple of nights so that we can have a few drinks (even though we only live a few miles away) and my son, daughter-in-law and grandaughter come for their meal as well as soon as they finish serving in the pub they run. We are pleased too that sister-in-law and partner are coming up from Devon for 4-5 days too. It's always better to cook for a crowd!

This year I decided to contact some of the people who had sent me products to review over the last year and feature them for my Christmas meal.

As an aperetif we sampled Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Prosecco - the one I tried at their recent blogger masterclass. A Magnum of Prosecco went down very nicely to start off the festive day!

For my starter we had a large platter of smoked salmon  courtesy of Burren, brown bread with butter and plenty of lemon and black pepper.  I love this smoked salmon with lots of freshly ground black pepper and lemons squeezed over it.

Smoked Mackerel Pate and Smoked Salmon appetiser platter
polishing off a plate of smoked salmon
We also had potted smoked mackerel pate served with thin slices of toast. The mackerel came from Fish is the Dish via Delish Fish in Aberdeen. I made the smoked mackerel pate by flaking the fish and adding a bit of creamed horseraddish, softened butter, lemon rind and a sprinkle of celery salt.  I mixed this all up and put into ramekins.  This keeps the pate fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks or you can freeze it.

Ready to become smoked mackerel pate
MIL said she didn't really like fish (although I am sure she eats smoked salmon) so I also got a small camembert cheese and baked it for her as an alternative starter. She was  pleased and like it.

For the main meal we were treated to an organic bronze turkey from John Howe Turkeys. These turkeys are reared with passion and trust me ours was eaten with passion too! They have been producing turkeys for the Christmas table for over 30 years and offer both white and bronze and keep to the same traditional methods and values as in their very first year of production.  These turkeys live a happy life and and have a dignified death and bring a roast with fantastic flavour and tenderness to your table.

All set and ready to be carved.

There is always one who wants the leg!
I have usually put the stuffing into the main cavity of the turkey but this year I just put a lemon cut in half and two small onions in the main cavity and made the stuffing seperately.  I put about 200g of softened butter under the skin of the breast and covered the breast with streaky bacon and popped it into the oven. We went by the 35min/kg calculations and gave it about 4 hours in the oven plus time to rest.

The smell almost drove us crazy and even our little dog took to hanging around the oven in the hope he might get a treat! The turkey was as moist as you can imagine and very tasty.  I have had a few frozen supermarket turkeys over the past few years (including Thanksgivings) and they have had virtually no taste!  John Howe's turkey was succulent and had great flavour and texture.

Stuffing was made with Clonakilty black pudding, sausage meat and breadcrumbs.  I lined my stoneware muffin tin with Clonakilty streaky bacon and filled with the sausage/pudding mix. I made these the day before and reheated them in the oven prior to serving - this way they stayed crisp but didn't burn.  I shall be going into much more detail about Clonakilty black pudding in a coming blog.

individual stuffing and bacon parcels
Gammon done in the slow cooker over night with only sliced apples, sliced carrots and covered in cider brought up from Somerset just for the meal. I put the slow cooker on just before going to bed on Christmas Eve to have it ready mid morning and one more thing out of the way.

Veggies were spiced red cabbage, sprouts, roast potatoes and parsnips which I left in the capable hands of FIL as he does remarkably nice roasties. 

My recipe for the braised red cabbage is one I saw Jamie Oliver prepare on TV and tried it for Thanksgiving - it was so easy and tasty that I wanted to include it on the Christmas Day menu. Basically braise the red cabbage with bacon, onion, apples, fennel seeds and balsamic vinegar for about an hour. this becomes sticky and very delicious indeed. a very nice addition to the meal and a really vibrant colour offering.

My friend Val wanted to be mentioned on this blog post so she gave me a couple of sprout trees from her allotment. You can't beat that for freshness and they still had the leaves on the top to use in the subsequent 'bubble and squeak'. The sprouts were small and young and had a nice mild flavour and even the less likely sprout lovers said how nice they were.

The Bread Sauce was made with a packet of Knorr Gourmet Rich Bread Sauce and 300ml of semi-skimmed milk. I didn't want to leave out some small but essential favourites!

Pudding consisted of Fortnum & Mason Stir-up-Sunday Christmas Pudding Kit. The kit comes complete with everything you need even the silver charm and sixpence along with the ceramic F&M bowl, greaseproof paper and string to tie it all together - all you needed to add was the eggs, lemon juice and brandy. I was sent this and one for my daughter Caroline so we could have a family Stir-up-Sunday session with me, Caroline and her stepmother. (you can read all about this day on a previous blog post).

To go with the pudding we had Brandy Butter courtesy of Carved Angel.

I also made a trifle with a base of panetoni, cherries in liqueur topped up with some raspberry liqueur from Sainsburys, custard and whipped cream to which we whipped in Cool Swan Irish Cream Liqueur, a rich and velvety-smooth blend of double cream, chocolate, Madagascan vanilla and dark cocoa from Cote d'Ivorie.

Our cheese board was planned to be a selection of cheeses including Godminster's well known heart shaped, organic cheddar covered in their iconic burgundy coloured wax. This cheese is strong and feels like it has little bits of foil in it which indicates its strength but the consistency is creamy for a cheddar and luxury cheese spreads with cutneys on  top served on a luxury thick and hand crafted piece of elm wood made by furniture designer John A Harris.

The only thing that wasn't planned was that we would all surcumb to the dreaded cold with flu symptoms.  At least one member of the family was in bed coughing and shivering at all times over the festive days! I had taken on the job of Head Chef and the brother-in-law was my dedicated Sous Chef and between us we made sure everyone was fed and watered. Thanks Chef!!

2012 was a very interesting year for HeidiRobertsKitchenTalk and I am really looking to what 2013 has in store!!

I would like to say a big 'thank you' to all who sent me things to include in our Christmas feast and also to all of those that I worked with in 2012.  Here's looking forward to lots of interesting posts for you, dear Reader, for 2013 - hope you enjoy them!

Monday, 17 December 2012

QOOQ - Playing in Paris with the new tablet!

I was invited to travel on Eurostar to Paris recently to try out a new French tablet made exclusively for the kitchen.  That was the exciting part but not being a morning person the 06:15 train to St Pancras was not the best part of the plan!!

The train journey from St Pancras, London to the Gare du Nord, Paris was a quick 2 hours 20 mins and a chance for a relaxed chat with the other food bloggers on the trip including Helen and Kavey and new friends Mark and Farrukh.

The new tablet is called QOOQ (pronounced Cook) and is intended to be used in the kitchen and will withstand all the rough and tumble a typical cook will put it through.

The QOOQ was originally made in China but due to rising costs the manufacture was trasnsferred to France.  This makes a very popular statement in France that it is produced on home soil and offering jobs and revenue.

When we arrived at the Gare du Nord station in Paris we were met by the lovely staff from Unowhy - the parent company and taken to their headquarters.  We were very eager to see the tablet and start putting it through it's paces. Coffee always tastes better when someone else makes it and this cup was no exception along with the little pastries which we sampled whilst hearing all about the things that the QOOQ tablet could offer. Hubert, the Marketing Director was able to answer all our questions and even tell us things we hadn't thought to ask yet. 

We were introduced to Farida, a well known French TV personality and chef. Farida is an accomplished cook having learned from her Algerian mother. It was Farida's recipe that we would be preparing first.

We went into their kitchen area to discover that we would split into teams of two and prepare two recipes.  There were an odd number of us so I was paired up with Linda, the Project Manager and we were told to pick up the QOOQ and find the recipes and start preparing them without any real hints to do so.  The purpose of this was to highlight how easy the tablet was to use.  We were timed as we set about our tasks and at the end of the time our efforts were judged. 

Our starter ready for judging!
Champagne and a good bit of banter follwed then on to a simple lunch of what we had prepared and plates of cheese, fois gras, fruit and some lovely wine.

After lunch were taken to a very well known French cupcake shop for a drink and a cupcake we had a quick chat with Chloe who also featured on the QOOQ amongst the other well known TV personalities and chefs.

Chloe and some of her cup cakes ready for sale

I had a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing.

We all shared a piece of Chloe's famous Nutella cake, yumm
Another little morsel!

 A couple of hours free to wander round the shops and then the Eurostar home.  A slightly different Saturday from usual and a very enjoyable one.

And now for the technical stuff:-

The QOOQ offers users a unique interaction with top chefs and allows the user to access over 1,000 recipes and for a small subscription fee you can access up to 4,000 more.  The recipes range from easy beginner level to much more accomplished cook and encourages the user to cook along with the chef.  It is also possible to load on your favourite recipes, share them with friends and even works our a shopping list for you.

It has a touch screen display and an extra durable case and is spill proof and designed to be used by sticky, floured hands and still works.  The tablet has a foldaway stand, timer and speakers as well as 8GB of memory.  You can also use if for accessing email, social media apps and online radio.

There are many more functions and features (the English language is still US English but will be changing to UK English for the UK market).

The QOOQ tablet costs £289 and is available online via the QOOQ website. This would make a great Christmas present for any budding chef or accomplished cook!

Virtuous Lunch!

I hate waste and I work from home. Today I needed something warming for lunch but didn't want to give up too much working time.  So the answer was simple.

I always feel very virtuous when I use up left overs or the last small amount too good to throw away.

Today I put some pasta spirals on to boil thus using up the last bits of pasta in the bag.  Whilst this was cooking I found a few slices of salami from my trip to Paris last week. I chopped them up and put into a small frying pan then added one chopped tomato, letting this cook 3-4 minutes then 2 tsp pesto and the last few pieces of a soft cheese I also bought in Paris last weekend.  A sprinkle of My Secret Kitchen Lemon & Chipotle Sea Salt and Secret Spices Wild Garlic and when the pasta finished cooking and was drained I mixed the sauce on top.

The result was a warming and yummy lunch, quick and simple.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Time to Sparkle - With Sainsbury's Champagne!

Champagne and sparkling wines are usually kept for weddings, birthday celebrations, christenings or lovely sunny summer BBQs but I have to ask my self why?

Champagne and sparkling wines are in most supermarkets and prices range from affordable right up to downright expensive but tonight I learned some of the reasons for those price differentials.

I learned a lot more things too at a blogger event run by Sainsbury's at their very impressive head office in Holborn in London.

Upon arrival we were offered a glass of Prosecco with a raspberry liqueur and a couple of raspberries. This is a really civilised way of welcoming someone to your event!!

We were introduced to Sainsbury's Winemaker Emma Holland who although is relatively new to the company has a wide bank of knowledge on wines and sparkling wines.  Emma talked us through tasting seven sparkling wines and champagnes and answered questions as we went along.

We took our places ready set out with seven glasses which excited us as we were going to sample seven drinks!

At the end of the tasting we had a complete row of glasses of different types and strengths of sparkling wines and champagnes. 

We tasted some of Sainsbury's best drinks such as Taste the Difference Prosecco, a great sparkling apertif, Product information for Sainsbury's Conegliano Prosecco, Taste the Difference 150clTaste the Difference Fairtrade Moscato Rose - Product information for Sainsbury's Fairtrade Rosé Moscato, Taste the Difference 75cla sweet fruity rose made to drink young and an alcohol value of only 5.5% which makes it ideal to drink in hot weather to keep yourself cool.  This wine had a new style cap called a Zork which helps to keep the drink in the fridge for 2-3 days if you don't fancy drinking it all at once.

Zork - new style cap for sparkling wines - alows you to keep it in the fridge 2-3 days

We tried Sainsbury's Brut Rose Champagne made with a combination of Chardonnay grapes and Pinot Noir. This was a dry and sophisticated drink with a lovely clean slightly rose colour.
Product information for Sainsbury's Vintage Cava, Taste the Difference 75clNext we tried Taste the Difference Vintage Cava.  This would make a lovely aperitif with a slightly herby aroma and dense bubbles and at a price of £6.99 (75cl) until 1st January 2013 this is certainly one for the celebrations.
Product information for Sainsbury's Blanc De Blancs Brut NV Champagne 75clMy favourite was the Sainsbury's Blanc de Blanc and at the special price of £14.99 (75cl) until 1st January 2013 I will be stocking up on this.  This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grape and is fresh and citrusy and would work very very well as an apertif or with seafood or my favourite way of drinking it would be the same as a cold glass of Chardonnay - with a slice of lemon.
Product information for Sainsbury's Blanc De Noirs 37.5clWith great expectation we then tried Sainsbury's Blanc de Noirs which is made with a combination of red and white grapes with slightly more body.  My first impression was that it smelled like a cloud which is weird cause I have never smelled a cloud!  This selection comes in the 75cl but also available as a magnum (1.5 ltr) which would suit a celebration perfectly.
And the final tasting of the evening was the Taste the Difference Vintage Champagne.  This is a lovely mix of Chardonnay and Pinor Noir grapes made from grapes harvested in September 2005 and kept on the lees for 6 years in cellars where the temperature is kept between 10-110C.  To me it smelled woody and tasted of cammenbert cheese which Emma said was a very good description.  Perfect for weddings and other celebrations and of course Christmas 2012!Product information for Sainsbury's Champagne, Taste the Difference 75cl

I learned a lot at this Masterclass of Champagnes such as what makes it a Vintage year, how much sugar is allowed and how tastes have changed over time. That glassware is important and mus be scrupulously clean to get maximum bubble effect. That cost is determined by the amount of time and effort is needed to keep it in the fermentation stage and that there is no point keeping non-vintage champagne a long time.  With this in mind I think I  had better drink my collection of champagne and replace them at a future date!


Monday, 10 December 2012

My Chia Bia Seed Challenge - Update #2

I have been taking the Chia Bia seeds for a couple of months now and I am still loving taking them for my breakfast every day.

I have just finished a pack of the milled seeds with wild blueberries.  I think I really prefer the whole seeds.  I like the texture of the whole seeds better.  The milled seeds are perfect for smoothies and shakes however.

How have the seeds helped me lately? Well I usually take a while for a cold to come out, feeling grotty then better then grotty and so on until the cold comes out fully.  I haven't had a cold for ages but recently started getting those feelings that one was coming.  Eventually it started but this time each stage has been very mild and gone on to the next one very quickly.  At this rate it should all be over in a few more days.  I think taking the seeds on a daily basis has helped my immune system to cope with the many germs flying by.

I usually have my seeds first thing in the morning in my Total Greek Yoghurt which also has health benefits and may be working overtime with the seeds to promote good immune systems.

Also the chia seeds are supposed to promote good joint health amongst other things.chia seed benefits

Mr R commented the other day that I don't seem to have that lower back pain recently and this got me thinking to when I walk the dog as well.  In the past after a a few minutes on our morning walk I would have spasms in my lower back and the muscles in my legs.  Recently I have been walking the dog and not felt any pain or discomfort at all.  Guess those seeds are working!!

(above diagram taken from Chia Bia website)

New Pieces from Pyrex

Pyrex recently sent me a couple of their products to review.  I was particularly looking forward to their new bakeware range.

They sent me their Pryex Classic metal rectangular roaster.  It measures 26x19 cm and has a 5 year guarantee.  It is non-stick, oven proof and has practical handles.  Also in the bakeware range is a square roaster, muffin pan, loaf pan, cake pans and lots more.

I had a chicken to roast for dinner so thought it was as good a time as any to use the roaster.

The chicken fitted perfectly inside the roaster.  I sprinkled Lemon & Chipotle Sea Salt generously on top and popped half a lemon inside.  Even though the roaster can take temperatures up to 250o I put the chicken in the oven at about 180o.

We will have roast potatoes, roast parsnips and broccoli with the chicken for dinner.

Pyrex also sent me a glass roaster, a classic round 1ltr casserole with lid and a handy measuring jug that looks like something you might find in a chemistry lab with a tight fitting silicone lid perfect for measuring liquids and making all sort of dressings.

Pyrex has always been known for its quality and these pieces are no exception to that quality.  They will make a useful addition to the cupboard.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Knorr takes Mr R to Gravy Heaven!! & a 'Pop-Up' Competition

Knorr have done it again.  Recently they produced little gel pots of stock that you just pop into what your are cooking and they gently melt and give the dish a concentrated hit of stock.

But now Knorr have just launched their gel Gravy Pots!!  One of Mr R's favourite things is gravy and he often makes a quick instant gravy to put on a dinner he finds too dry.  So in order to make his day I have decided to treat him to sausages, mash and gravy for his dinner tonight.

The little gravy pots are a concentrated gravy that you pop into a saucepan of warm water, whisk until dissolved and bring to a boil for one minute.  That's it and presto real beef or chicken gravy!

I received both beef and chicken gravy pots to try and look forward to using the chicken one.  The beef gravy tasted rich and beefy and not at all like those instant just add hot water, weak and watery gravies.

Want to try some beef gravy pots for your self? All you have to do is enter my 'pop up' competition.
I have a pack of four pots to give away.  In order to win them you must do the following:-

1. Follow my blog and let me know in a comment that you have done so.
2. Follow me on Twitter @Walpolegirl and let me know that you have done so or that you already follow me in the comment box below.
3. Follow @Knorr on Twitter and let me know in a comment below that you have done so or that you already follow them.
4. Share this post on Facebook and let me know below that you have done it.

This is a quickie so I will pick a winner on Sunday 09 December 2012.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Chocolate Week with Lindt

In honour of Chocolate Week I was sent some of Lindt's new Creation range to try (hard job isn't it!!)  I must admit to being a recovering chocoholic and was able to photograph and write about the chocolate before demosishing it!

Lindt & Sprungli have been Master Swiss Chocolatier since 1845 and are synomous with luxurious and velvety chocolate.

This new Creation range is sumptuous, luscious and velvety.  Let's start with my favourite: Luscious Caramel.  This is a milk chocolate covering a smooth silky, golden caramel centre. It is an extra fine milk chocolate with a truffle and caramel centre and melts easily in your mouth.

Then I tried the Velvety Vanilla Almond with Caramel.  This is an extra fine milk chocolate with a melting vanilla flavoured centre, caramel sauce and fine almond pieces.  You bite in and your mouth is covered in silk and then you start to find little pieces of almond as your tongue starts to move around!

Sumptuous Orange is a dark chocolate with an indulgent heart filled with zesty orange pieces wrapped in a rich dark chocolate. A very upmarket chocolate orange!

Great with a cup of coffee or fantastic 'stocking fillers'!!

Quick Prep with Tefal Fresh Express

You may have seen the recent deluge of TV advertising for the Tefal Fresh Express.  It is small and brightly coloured so has lots of kitchen appeal and does slicing, dicing and shredding in record time.

I was intrigued by this new baby of a prep machine and was delighted to receive one from Tefal to try, review and write about.

It really is compact and I love how the chopping blades fit so neatly together with a clip on outer holder. The cord fits neatly inside so you don't have a problem with it hanging out dangerously whilst on a counter top or in a cupboard.

Put together with the clear drum holder clipped in place
There are five brightly coloured drums, one for thick slicing, one for thin slicing.  Another one thickly grates and one for thin grating and the final one for very fine grating such as parmesean and chocolate.  There really isn't much you can't slice or grate with this little beauty!

All five of the drums

I initially tried slicing courgettes, onions and celery. The courgettes sliced beautifully and will look fantastic in my quiche for dinner. 

Very thinly sliced courgettes

I thought the onions were a bit difficult but I think sometimes they have more moisture than other times of the year and the one I used were a bit difficult.  On the other hand the celery sliced just perfectly. 

I am expecting this machine to be a great boost over the Christmas holiday with all the prep needed to feed friends and family.  My son is keen on borrowing this from me as he and his wife follow a Slimming World eating plan and he is planning on getting one eventually.