A trip to Hauser & Wirth (Lunch at the Roth Bar & Grill)

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Easter Monday was a glorious day in Somerset, so the OH and I decided to go out exploring and ended up at Hauser & Wirth, an Art Gallery with a garden and restaurant just outside Bruton. We’d been meaning to visit for a while, as the gallery opened last year and is quite a big deal – they have galleries in New York, Zurich, London – and now Somerset!

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We arrived feeling pretty thirsty, so headed straight to the (very cool) bar, and got talked into trying a ‘Dovecote Breeze’ (£4) by the barman. This was a combination of celery, apple, kale and pear juices, and was delicious. It quenched our thirsts and also left us feeling quite virtuous…

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The courtyard was buzzing with people and a barbecue was taking place which was tempting, but we were trying out the restaurant later so had some will power and headed into the gallery…

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The gallery is housed in the grounds and buildings of Durslade farm (including the Piggery), and is free to visit (there is a donation bucket in the shop). There are currently three main exhibitions on show, the biggest  by a Chinese artist called Zhang Enli – large-scales paintings inspired by nature and the changing seasons. There was also a sound installation by Susan Philipsz – inspired by the farm buildings and the theme of traditional country dancing. It is also ‘Architecture Season’ at the gallery, which meant over 100 architectural drawings and sculptures by leading architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Rem Koolhaus were on display (as a recently qualified architect, this pleased the OH no end). 

DSCN1613   Some of the architectural drawings 

DSCN1611 One of the sound installations in the Threshing Barn

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The Cloister – very peaceful spot to sit and soak up the sun!

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The garden was designed by award-winning landscape designer Piet Oudolf. it is supposed to be a perennial meadow, but it looked a bit sparse and bare to us! We may have to come back in the summer and see it again, as the photo’s on the Hauser & Wirth website are stunning.

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At the end of the garden was the Radić Pavilion (designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radić), a contemporary take on a folly, which was originally on display at the Serpentine Gallery in London. It’s quite an impressive structure, and is quite imposing at the end of the garden. It was really interesting wandering around the inside, and seeing the interior glow due to the sunlight.

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And then it was on to lunch. The Roth Bar & Grill is run by the team at the nearby At The Chapel in Bruton (worth a visit). The space is really interesting, and definitely feels part of the Art gallery, as you are surrounded by paintings, installations and little sculptures.

The menu was larger than I thought it would be from the website, comprising of about 8 ‘light’ dishes, their burger, 6 specials, 3 ‘from the grill’, and a good selection of side dishes. The food is sourced close to home, with much of it coming from the farm itself – the butter is even produced in the restaurant!

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We were offered some bread and the aforementioned butter whilst we waited for the rest of our food – and it was delicious. I also really appreciated being offered free bread and butter, as so many restaurants charge for it now.

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After that we went straight for mains. The OH went for the RBG Burger: ‘Beef burger, pickles, onions, Sandridge Farm bacon, smoked Godminster cheddar, brioche bun, chips’ £13. We’d driven past the Godminster shop on the way, so we knew that was pretty local… It was a good sized bun, lovely juicy bacon (obviously the good stuff, not the watery rashers you get in some supermarkets), and crunchy, tasty chips.

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I went for one of the ‘Light’ meals, mainly because the puddings looked delicious and I wanted to leave room! The ‘Mussels, cider,fennel, bacon, chips’ (£12) was actually pretty big for a light meal, but I found it the perfect amount – it also came with (wild) garlic bread. The mussels were huge, the sauce was delicious, the chips were still crunchy and tasty, and the bread was an added bonus.

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Puddings-wise I was torn between two on the menu (plus the cheeseboard, but I don’t think I would’ve had room for that). Luckily the OH couldn’t decide what to have, and was easily persuaded into trying one of the two – so I could try both 🙂

He had ‘Baked vanilla & white chocolate cheesecake, passion fruit’ (£6). The cheesecake was firm and creamy, and very sweet – luckily the passion fruit gave it the sharpness it needed.

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I had ‘Blood orange & almond cake, rose water syrup’ also £6. I have a bit of a thing for blood oranges at the moment, so this was perfect. I love almond cake, and this was made more moist by the rose water syrup, which was delicately flavoured and didn’t overpower the orange. The orange was just on the right side of sharp and was lightly caramelised. I might have to attempt to make this sometime…

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After pudding, we both had a very nice Cortado (£2.40) – feels so european in glass cups…

I also had a homemade ginger beer (£3.50) with my food which was delicious, and apparently made with caramelised limes, which I saw at the bar on the way in.

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We had a wander around the shop, which has lots of nice books and presents for anyone arty or creative (including some interesting children’s books), and then went into Bruton for a wander, before driving back to Bath.

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If you’re in this neck of the woods I’d recommend a visit to Hauser & Wirth and The Roth Bar & Grill – the beautiful Somerset countryside, a bit of culture, and some local, delicious food – it’s pretty much the perfect day out…

Weekend Brunch: Italian Eggs

Happy Easter all!

What better way to celebrate than with eggs – of the savoury kind…

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I recently bought a book called ‘Breakfast: Morning, Noon and Night’ (could be my mantra) written by Fern Green, a food stylist & writer. I’m a sucker for attractive cook books, and this one would certainly help you to wake up in the morning with it’s sunny cover! The book is helpfully split up into sections such as ‘healthy’ ‘hungover’ and ‘on toast’, and many of the recipes would be absolutely fine for supper or lunch as well as brunch – as the title implies…

I now have so many brunch recipes to get through (including a pinterest board here) that I may start a little weekly brunch theme if I get the time, as there are so many to try.

Onto the recipe:

The first recipe I tried from the new book is called ‘Italian Eggs’ or ‘Prosciutto, Chilli, Eggs & Rocket’. It’s basically a twist on the traditional Mexican ‘Huevos Rancheros’ – put a load of stuff in a big frying pan, crack some eggs into it, and enjoy! This is under the Hungover section of the book, but it is equally as tasty when not hungover, as I can testify. If there was a ‘lazy’ section of the book it would definitely be in that, as it’s one-pan cooking (so less washing up after), and you can put the pan onto the kitchen table and let people grab their own. It’s therefore great if you have company too – just make extra.

Italian Eggs

(serves 2)

Ingredients

olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 slices prosciutto, roughly torn (we were greedy and had about 4 slices)

2 slices bread, torn or cut into cubes (we used wholemeal)

1 red chilli, chopped (we used dried flakes)

1 tomato, chopped (seeds removed)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

4 eggs

2 handfuls rocket

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt & pepper to taste

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Pour some olive oil into a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the red onion to the pan and cook for around 3 minutes, or until soft. Tip in the bread, prosciutto and chilli. Drizzle some more olive oil over the bread to help it crisp up into croutons. Fry for another 3 minutes, until the bread is crispy.

Add the tomato, vinegar (or lemon juice), and salt. Stir again and cook for another 30 seconds.

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Make 4 gaps in the mixture. Crack your eggs into a small cup, then slide the eggs into the gaps. Put the lid on your pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes, depending on how well you like your eggs cooked.

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Top with the parsley and rocket, and season with salt & pepper. Add another drizzle of olive oil if you wish.

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Enjoy!

P.s I had big plans to make my own hot cross buns this year, but I’m afraid they fell by the wayside (because they take blinking ages and I’m too knackered) – I did however buy extra hot cross buns so I can make Hot Cross Bun Puddings with Salted Brandy Caramel Sauce – because that sounds epic.

I hope everyone has a relaxing and Happy Easter 🙂

Meat Free Freak

So this week is ‘Meat Free Week’ in the UK (and I believe, Australia). I must confess, it has taken me by surprise – I only found out about it yesterday (after having already bought food for the week… with meat in it!). What a bad food blogger, I should have my finger on the pulse(s). Sorry.

Although I won’t be taking part fully this year, the OH and I are regular meat-free eaters here and have fairly easily gone a week without it in the past, so I don’t feel too bad…

If you want to find out more about the campaign the official website is here, but the general aims of this week seem to be to raise awareness of how much meat we as a nation eat (more than double the world average!), and how this can impact on our health and the environment. Also thinking more about where our meat comes from, and whether it is ethical or sustainable, which is something I personally find important.

If you are attempting Meat Free week this year, or just want some veggie ideas, then here are some of my favourite non-meat meals, and some I can’t wait to try!

For those needing a burger or similar:

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Portobello burger with broccoli pesto & almond-crusted courgette fries (Sheerluxe)

When burgers look this good, what’s not to like? The recipe doesn’t include how to make broccoli pesto, but I (helpfully) made some last week to go with gnocchi so here is a super-quick run-through of how I made it:

Take 1 head of broccoli, chop roughly and blanch in boiling salted water for approx 3-4 minutes. Lightly fry a garlic clove, and dry fry/toast approx 75g pine nuts. Drain the broccoli and add to a blender or food processor with 100ml olive oil, the toasted pine nuts, the garlic, 1 mild chilli and approx 50g of grated parmesan cheese. Blend to a paste to create the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Yum!

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Epic Crispy Quinoa burger with beer-caramelised onions, gruyere and sweet potato fries (half-baked harvest)

WHEN BURGERS LOOK THIS GOOD, WHO NEEDS MEAT?! Sorry for shouting, but this looks ridiculous and I need to make it soon. When only something dirty will do…

Something a bit healthier:

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Broad bean, feta and new potato quesadilla’s

These beauties are a delight, and quite spring-like. Broad beans, peas, new potatoes, feta, mint – just lovely.

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Carrot Fritters with halloumi & sweet lemon dressing (sheerluxe)

Another spring-like delight, these went down a storm at a veggie dinner party we gave a while ago. The sweet lemon dressing makes it special.

Comfort food:

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Truffled gnocchi with mushroom ragu (simply delicious)

Posh comfort food that is… anything with truffle in I will eat (I think), and a ragu with mushrooms sounds comforting and stodgy and lovely when there’s still a chill in the air – like today!

d96d56cc14c6ca4713149d6adc2f9987 Tenderstem & Split-pea curry with caramelised shallots (Red online)

Chilly comfort food again – lentils, pulses and split-peas are some of my staples and they are elevated with the caramelised shallots and tender stem broccoli in this recipe.

Lunch:

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Roasted cauliflower & mushroom quinoa salad with balsamic vinaigrette (closet cooking)

A lovely salad which is excellently very tasty cold as well as hot. Make a big batch of this and it’ll last most of the week! We tend to put blue cheese in it instead of goats, but whatever you choose it’ll taste great. Very filling too.

Brunch: 

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Griddled sourdough with halloumi and mushrooms (Red online)

Three of my favourite words in one sentence there – sourdough, halloumi, and mushrooms. Could easily be supper instead of brunch if you (i.e I!) wanted.

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Baked eggs with spinach and black garlic soldiers (red online)

Had to get eggs in there for brunch! This sounds delicious, and I’m sure normal garlic would work just as well as black – or maybe even wild garlic?

A Quick one:

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Molletes (sheerluxe)

The recipe for these little mexican delights involve making your own re-fried beans and fresh tomato salsa which, although admirable, is not needed if you just want something tasty – as you can buy both quite easily at the supermarket. It is therefore just a case of opening a couple of tins, putting it all on some ciabbata buns and putting it under the grill. Simples 😉

You might recall I did a post on an (almost) meat-free week a while back, and the recipes there are some of my favourites too, but I didn’t want to replicate. Therefore, the link is here if you’d like to take a look.

Meat-free or not, have a tasty week!

Pigging Out – At the Pig near Bath

For my Birthday this year I decided to check out The Pig near Bath. It is a boutique hotel (near Bath, funnily enough) with a restaurant that prides itself on its ’25 mile menu’. Ever since it opened last year I’ve fantasised about spending a weekend there – lazing around in the ‘Potting Shed’ spa, gorging myself on food in the ‘Greenhouse’ restaurant, and then retiring to one of their luxurious but rustic bedrooms for the night. Alas, the whole package is a bit out of my price-range for the moment, but myself and my family did definitely gorge ourselves in the restaurant – and it was wonderful.

Firstly i’ll apologise for the grainy, bad quality photos – the lighting in the restaurant is more conducive to romanic, cosy meals than good-quality food photos (as it should be). So i’ll have to try and woo you into going with descriptions rather than pictures – and if you check out their website here that will give you a pretty good idea too.

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Onto the food: What caught my eye straight away was the ‘Piggy Bits’. Above the starters on the menu, and £3.75 each, these were the equivalent of a bar snack in size. Pretty much all incorporating pig in some way, these were my idea of heaven! We chose 3 and shared them out – from left to right on above photo: Crackling with Apple Sauce, Honey & Chilli Pork Belly Bites, and Ham hock Scotch Eggs. The pork belly was ridiculously good, and therefore not big enough 😉 – sticky and sweet with a hint of heat from the chilli – I knew then I would be going home happy! The crackling was crisp and salty and more-ish, and the apple sauce contrasted perfectly. The scotch eggs had runny yolks and crispy outers – just as they should.

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It was then on to starters. I had Venison Hash & Crispy Hen Egg with a Pickled Garden Salad. Crispy eggs are an excellent invention – not to be confused with another eggy marvel, the scotch egg (invented at fortnum & mason’s in the 1700’s apparently – see sidebar), a crispy egg doesn’t have any meat, it’s a soft-boiled egg coated in breadcrumbs – Yum. The venison hash was rich and went well with the egg, the crispy outer giving the dish an extra texture. Dad had the platter of cured Mendip Meats which came with sourdough bread and chutney, and lots of little pickled bits, like caper berries. I tried a bit (in the name of research of course), and in my opinion these local meats were just as good and tasty as any you’d find in Italy or Spain, and it’s great that they’re so local! The OH had the standout starter of the evening though – Sweet & Sour Tripe (not pictured – it went too quickly). Neither of us had tried tripe before, but the OH very sensibly decided if he was going to try it, here would be a good place, and he was right – delicious.

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Ashamed to say I was already getting full by this point – I must have gorged myself too much on the piggy bits, but I soldiered on nonetheless and had a Rabbit Escalope with lentils, capers, lemon and parmesan – a winning combo. Mum had Lamb cutlets with a lamb ‘bonbon’ – breadcrumbed of course. It was given the thumbs-up. We ordered some of their triple-cooked chips which came in a flowerpot but tasted lovely, and also some of their steamed garden greens. It’s nice to know that so much of the produce has come from just outside in their kitchen garden – just a shame it was too dark to see any of it (we’ll have to go back for lunch some time).

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By the time we got to desserts I was seriously stuffed. Dad managed a New York-style cheesecake flavoured with rosemary (from the garden of course) and the OH ordered some ‘Piggy Fours’ (their version of petit fours) which included homemade fudge. I felt I had to have something but it needed to be VERY light and small – step forward the ‘Shot of Foragers sorbet’ – at £3.50 this was the cheapest dessert option too, the rest being £7.00 (the piggy fours were £4.50). This was very refreshing and light, with the added bonus of popping candy on top! It also had a biscuit in the shape of a pig, with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it 🙂

Our waiter had found out during the meal that it was my birthday (and commented on how young I looked for my age, so I already liked him!), and he also overheard us mentioning how nice it was to see the italian dessert wine Vin Santo on the menu (I once had an italian boyfriend whose family made it), so when he brought out my birthday sorbet, he also brought us out a glass each on the house!

This is a good example of the excellent service we received all night, and it really helped to make the evening special and memorable. Our waiter was attentive all evening without being overbearing, and obviously knew the menu well enough to offer suggestions on the food. They also had a dedicated sommelier to help further with wine.

The only negative point I can think of about the restaurant is the lack of vegetarian options (there were about three, including starters), but I suppose with a name like ‘The Pig’ it’s not that surprising…

I think a trip out to The Pig for Sunday Lunch is definitely in order at some point – although they seem to be booked up pretty far in advance – but I can just see myself lazing on a sofa in the snug with coffee and petit fours, and wandering around the kitchen garden.

So the moral of this review is – go and be satisfied! (Unless you’re a veggie)

Roast Chicken: The Gift That Keeps on Giving (or how to use up leftovers…)

Years ago I bought a book called ‘The Thrifty Cookbook: 476 ways to eat well with leftovers‘ (Kate Colquhoun). It appealed to me because I don’t like throwing away food just cos it’s gone a bit soft (fruit) or hard (bread)! It’s a great book to dip into if you have something you want to use up, or want to make go further. We roasted some plums this week using a recipe from the book , mainly because we had a pot of double cream that needed using up… When I bought the book the back cover stood out to me as it has this illustration of a roast chicken and all you can do with its leftovers, which I thought was a great idea:

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We don’t often have a roast in our house – if i’ve only got a Sunday off it’s a toss-up between a sunday brunch or lunch – and brunch usually wins. Every now and then the craving for a good ol’ roast dinner does pop up though, and last weekend it did just that (so we were greedy and had that AND brunch). We decided to buy a chicken and work our weekly food shop around what we could do with the leftovers – as per the thrifty book. For the actual roast we had a leg and a wing each, with chippolata’s wrapped in streaky bacon, crunchy potato’s, roasted root veg, broccoli, stuffing, and homemade gravy – it was immense.

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After the epic roast, we still had the whole of the chicken carcass left to use up during the week, so I picked off all the meat (which I find quite therapeutic, and it means I get to eat the chicken oysters as a perk of the job), and kept the bones. We had enough leftover chicken (and stuffing, and gravy!) for six sandwiches during the week, and we also made four servings of one of our favourite healthy meals ‘Mexican chicken stew with quinoa’ (as seen here) with the last of the chicken.

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Making ‘Bone Broth’ or Stock

‘Bone Broth’ is a bit of a trend in healthy/clean eating at the moment (as popularised by the Hemsley + Hemsley sisters), it’s basically just stock that’s cooked for longer to extract more nutrients from the bones – ‘A good, homemade bone broth is rich in easily digestible substances such as amino acids, gelatine (a source of protein that helps counter the degeneration of joints), glucosamine, fats, vitamins, minerals and collagen (which improves the condition of skin)’ taken from this guardian article. Making great stock is normally a good enough reason for me to buy a whole chicken in the first place, so I thought I might as well try the broth! Once I’d stripped the meat off the carcass, that and a couple of leftover carrots and an onion all went into the pan (with a few bay leaves), and simmered for 6 hours. If you don’t have 6 hours to spare for the bone broth, good chicken stock will only take around 2.

You can make stock/broth with almost any meat bones, and also from fish bones or leftover raw vegetables (even peelings) – the fish and vegetable stocks only need about half an hour to cook though as they are more delicate.

I can’t give you a verdict on the broth yet as we have frozen it in preparation for this weeks recipes – I will update soon though!

We are planning on making a Hemsley + Hemsley recipe using the broth this week: Healthy Red Lentil Dhal, but often i’ll use up some of the remaining chicken and the stock in a risotto – just add an onion and some mushrooms! A soup would be another good way to use up one or both ingredients – if you have leftover veg from your roast, they could go in too.

So if you’re thinking of having a roast this weekend, why not think about what else you could use the leftovers for and get thrifty 🙂

Panicking about Pancakes?

Just a quick one re the important food-related business we all have today (in the UK anyway) – Shrove Tuesday = Pancake Day!

I haven’t decided what to have with my pancakes this evening, but I have made a little pinterest board with some ideas on, so if you feel like doing something other than lemon and sugar take a look!

My pancake board

A couple of interesting-looking recipes from it below:

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Apple Pie Pancakes (photo & recipe by Averie Cooks)

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Goats’ Curd Pancakes with Pomegranate Molasses Roast Grapes (photo from Marie Claire, recipe from Anna Hansen’s The Modern Pantry)

I’m thinking of some sort of apple and caramel version, using the salted caramel sauce recipe from my last post and softening some apples in a little bit of butter, then piling on top of crepes or scotch pancakes…

The standard crepe-style pancake recipe I use is from BBC Good Food here

For some reason I don’t tend to eat savoury pancakes on pancake day, although I’ll happily have them any other day – I think it’s because pancake day is the only day where you get to eat dessert for tea 😉

I have included some savoury pancake recipes on my pinterest board in case the urge takes though!

Happy Flipping…

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

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The Bake-off’s back (sort-of – it’s a comic relief one)… and what better way to celebrate than with brownies? I had some excellent brownies baked for my birthday recently by my mother-in-law, and they reminded me that I still hadn’t put this recipe up which is a crying shame as it is so tasty. Well here it is:

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

A lot of good words in one sentence.

When my sister, brother-in-law and nephew came to stay a while back, I wanted to bake them something, but my sister is a mega-picky eater so I felt like I couldn’t do anything even vaguely crazy – which made me want to even more 😉 Instead, I thought of a way to satisfy her, and me (and the rest of the family), by making a normal brownie with half of the brownie mix, and putting salted caramel and blackberries in the other half! Success. The brownie mix is really fudgey and tasty on its own which is great, but put a layer of salted caramel and some blackberries in the centre and it becomes ridiculously good.

Recipe taken and adapted slightly from Edd Kimber here

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

makes around 20 brownies (depending on how greedy you/your recipients are!)

180g plain flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

300g dark chocolate 65-75% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

220g light brown sugar

150g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the salted caramel filling:

150g granulated sugar

125ml double cream

10g salted butter, softened

Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Handful of blackberries (optional)

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For the sauce: Put the sugar in a pan over medium heat and heat until it turns a dark brown colour – keep an eye on it, as it will burn if you’re not careful. Remove from the heat before it starts to smoke and pour in the salt and half the cream. The mixture will bubble and spit at you (rude) so be careful! Once it’s calmed down, add the remaining cream and the softened butter. Put back on the heat and stir until smooth. Set aside.

For the brownies:  Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a brownie tray and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

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Put the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale in colour.

Whisk in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.

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Add the flour/cocoa powder/salt mixture and fold until just combined, don’t over-stir – you want some air left in the mixture.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan and level out.

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Dot the blackberries over the mixture, then add a thin layer of salted caramel sauce. Carefully spoon over the remaining brownie mixture and level it out.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean (a few crumbs are fine).

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Enjoy the fruits of your labour – try not to eat them all in one go!

If you want to make normal brownies just leave out the sauce and blackberries, if you want to do half and half just halve the mixture for each type 😉

P.s. If you want to donate to comic relief you can text BAKE to 70005 (for a £5 donation)

El Celler de Can Roca Part 4: Sweeeet

I do apologise for the extreme tardiness of this post, particularly in relation to parts 1, 2 & 3 (found here, here and here if you need reminding!)

This is the last of the El Celler de Can Roca posts, and it’s dedicated to desserts. Writing this before tea is slightly torturous but I’ll do my best…

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I wish I could post a video of this first dessert, but I haven’t worked out how to 😦

“Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron”.

The reason it needs a video is because it moves. That’s right, MOVES. The actual dessert is only the little spiky white ball, the rest of it is a strange latex blob which appears to ‘breathe’ and moves up and down whilst you’re trying to eat the dessert on top! It’s supposed to symbolise the fermenting of the sourdough ice cream, in case you didn’t realise. Mine didn’t actually work unfortunately, but it turns out the OH has issues with eating something that looks alive, so we swapped and I got the full experience after all – phew. It was very tasty, quite fruity with the lychee, nice and light with the ice cream and tiny bits of macaron. I didn’t notice too much of a yeasty flavour which I was pleased about, just a bit of sourness. We had Sake with this dessert which I’m not a massive fan of, but it wasn’t too bad with the ice cream.

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“Caramelised Apricot”

The next dessert had a lot to live up to looks-wise, but I think it delivered. A perfectly spherical piece of blown sugar, to represent the apricot which, when you cracked open, spilled out a caramelised apricot cream. I could have eaten this ten times over, delicious! We had a lovely honey-tasting dessert wine with this course too which added to the deliciousness – ‘Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2010‘.

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The last dessert was called “Chocolate Anarchy”. It was basically every type and style of chocolate you could find on a plate. It was good, but I personally could have done without it, as I don’t LOVE chocolate (give me a cheeseboard any day), and I found it quite rich for the last dessert of the evening. I would have preferred to have stopped at the apricot, but if you’re a chocolate lover then I’m sure you would’ve been in heaven. The most exciting for me with this dessert, was the wine – a sweet Pedro Ximénez dessert wine from 1962 (info on it here) – I’m pretty sure that’s the oldest wine I’ve ever drunk! It was thick and treacly, and sweet and lovely. We also had a small wine glass of black coffee too, which added a nice note of bitterness.

The Sweet Trolley

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Turns out the desserts weren’t quite the end – we had petit fours in the guise of a Willy Wonka-style sweet trolley which was rolled up to each table for you to choose what you wanted. I was massively stuffed by this point, but not one to pass up on free food (and it all looked pretty cute), so we had a selection of most of it, and by we, I mean me – the OH gave up after one. They were all really nice though – I loved all the jellied fruits (top of photo moving down), mini chocolate tarts, madeleines, little tubes of apple filled with custard, mini cookies, truffles with gold leaf, and pineapple infused with mint.

And we’ve finally come to the end of the meal… We turned up around 8.30pm and left just before 1am… a full evening’s experience!

Lots of people have asked if it was worth the money, and I personally think it is – as a SPECIAL occasion. It all comes down to what you like to spend your money on though I think – one of my main enjoyments in life is going out for a nice meal, with wine and good company, so I’m happy to pay more (once every 10 years maybe!) for a real restaurant experience that I’ll never forget.

The service was excellent, the space was beautiful, the meal was crazy but amazing. It was a good night.

Stews for the blues (and curries, and broths, and pilaf’s…)

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Well today is apparently ‘Blue Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year… I’m sorry if anyone is finding it particularly depressing today, but i’m not feeling it – I have the day off, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it’s nearly my birthday 😉

I definitely understand why January can be a tough month generally for many of us though – trying to be good, trying to keep new year’s resolutions, dark mornings, dark evenings – possibly drinking no alcohol? I always want to start eating a bit healthier in January, partly a new year thing, mainly a ‘I ate way too much over Christmas’ thing! But, because of the cold, dark days I also want to eat food that is comforting and warming – think stews, soups, carbs etc. These can be good if you’re feeling a bit ill or generally down too.

So if you’re feeling either of those, or you have good January intentions that aren’t coming into fruition, Maybe I can help with inspiration. Here are some of the comforting, healthy recipes the OH and I have been making and eating over the past couple of weeks…

Mexican Chicken Stew with Quinoa and Beans

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Recipe found here, serves 4.

This recipe is one of my default ‘healthy but tasty’ meals as it’s all good stuff, but is also hearty and a bit spicy. I found it when trying out the 5:2 diet last year – it was the most filling and tasty fast-day recipe I could find! It has chipotle paste in it which gives it a kick (p.s. I only recently realised chipotle is pronounced chip-oat-lay and unfortunately does not rhyme with aristotle as I had previously thought – sad times.)

If anyone is interested in fast-day recipes I have a pinterest board devoted to them – they are good if you just want to cut down on calories a bit without fasting too.

Courgette and Aubergine Curry

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Recipe found here, serves 4.

This recipe is a hemsley + hemsley one – every time I see their recipes I think how tasty (and healthy) they all are, so I may have to buy their book soon! All the ingredients in this asian-inspired curry are so fresh-sounding, and I love coconut milk. They bulk out the sauce with red split lentils too which is good in my book. P.s. bone broth is just stock, nothing too weird! So if you’re a veggie, just swap for water or vegetable stock.

Beef and Ginger broth with Noodles

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Recipe found here, serves 2.

Another Asian-inspired recipe, this time a warming broth. Tasty, tangy and surprisingly filling – we couldn’t find any wakame flakes so we used wakame miso powder instead (the sachets you make miso soup with), but we did find that birdseye does frozen soya/edamame beans which was quite exciting!

Turkish Runner Bean and Bulgar Wheat Pilaf with Garlic Yoghurt
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Recipe found here, serves 4 as a main.

Another vegetarian recipe, this one can be an accompaniment to meat or fish, or the star of the show itself – we decided to make it the star. We didn’t have the turkish pepper paste, so we put in a fresh pepper, and we also added a pinch of allspice and cinnamon to the dish too. I can’t eat raw garlic in food, I find it waaay too strong, so we also cooked the garlic clove before adding it to the yoghurt. It was a tasty, filling dish and I could almost imagine I was back in Istanbul in the sunshine… until I remembered i was sat on the sofa, under a blanket, with a hot water bottle.

I hope these recipes give you some inspiration if you’re lacking ideas for healthy, comfort food – and I hope none of you have a blue monday – just a blue-sky!

14 Things

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Happy 2015! I’ve decided to take a look back at the year just gone, before jumping into the new one. I’m borrowing the idea for this post from a friend and fashion blogger – I wish I could wink. I like the idea of looking back over the last year and finding 14 things to be thankful for. It’s been an interesting year, a lot has happened, mostly good but some bad, and the last couple of months have been quite stressful for me, so I think looking back and remembering the good could be a useful, positive exercise! It’s a departure from food for a moment (mainly), but indulge me. In no particular order…

  •  Starting this blog! It feels like ages ago now but I only started blogging in June this year – even if no-one reads it, I’m quite proud of it and it makes me more creative with food and writing, which I think is a good thing. It makes me (a bit) more disciplined too.
  • Turning thirty: I didn’t approach this milestone with much trepidation (although plenty of people made me feel like I should) – it’s quite a nice feeling being in your thirties, older and wiser but not old…
  •  All the amazing travelling i’ve done this year: What with the milestone birthdays and a holiday and a couple of mini-breaks, 2014 was a bumper travelling year 🙂 Morocco in February, Cornwall in April and August, London in May, Italy in June, Spain in September, and Edinburgh in November… Good times.
  • Going to the 2nd best restaurant in the world (I really need to finish the last post on this!): For the OH’s birthday I took him to El Celler de Can Roca, the only slight issue was that when I booked it, it was number 1…
  • The support of family and friends: During a couple of difficult months, feeling supported by people close to you is really important, and valued more because I know some are going through difficult times too.
  • Getting a promotion: Moving from Assistant Manager to Manager hasn’t been a smooth ride but i’m hopeful it will be worth it and thankful people believe(d) in me.
  • My nephew! Watching him grow up into an inquisitive, bright, funny little boy is a real joy – and now he’s 3, it’s great to be able to have a chat with him and (almost) understand everything he says 😉
  • Realising I really enjoy photography: I know I’ve got a lot to learn, but I really enjoy taking photographs for my blog, and just generally in life. One day I’ll own a DSLR but I’m happy to play around with my little Nikon Coolpix for now…. (Unless someone wants to buy me a DSLR of course).
  • Realising I’ve kept most of my New Years resolutions for a change: Reading more (working in a shop with a floor dedicated to books helps), being more creative generally (blogging! although my sewing machine is getting a little dusty…), singing/dancing more (I was in a choir for the first half of the year and have been tap-dancing the last few months), being healthier (overall I think so, although the Bake-off challenges scuppered that resolution a bit!)
  • My OH – always supportive, always finding a way to make me smile…
  • New experiences – particularly hot-air ballooning and rock climbing!
  • Starting Tap-dancing again after 20+ years – Ginger Rogers here I come…
  • Living somewhere surrounded by beautiful countryside so I can escape when the buildings and traffic get too much.
  • Häagen Dazs Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream: OMG it’s ridiculously good – thankful that my mother-in-law pretty much always has it in her freezer, but I also have to be thankful then that it’s not sold in my corner shop otherwise I would be the size of a house.

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Here’s to an amazing 2015!

Normal service will now be resumed…