Category: Food and Drink

The Food Report: A Chocolatey Chocolate Cake

The Food Report: A Chocolatey Chocolate Cake

A few weeks ago I made an extra chocolatey chocolate cake for a birthday and it was such a success I thought I would share it here! I have to admit that I am not the hugest chocolate cake fan, so if I’m going to make one it certainly has to be a little decadent.

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As is my usual way I combined a few recipes to create the cake I wanted. I started out with this BBC recipe which made a great base – especially as it is a cake made with oil rather than butter. I wanted to get a really chocolate-y dense finish, though, so I chucked in 100g of chocolate chips with my cake batter. I might not do this again because you really do get melted chocolate inside instead of a beautiful crumb, but it had the others raving so this is up to your personal taste!

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The ganache was taken from another BBC recipe and was also very easy – a simple case of pouring warm cream over chocolate. This was a pourable ganache rather than a thick spreadable one, but I popped it in the fridge to let it firm up and create the perfect texture. Only leave it in the fridge for a moment though, or you risk developing a chocolate ‘bloom’ and loosing your glossy finish. I chopped chocolate using the sharpest of knives to create a messy mix of curls and shards, but you could of course create more professional looking curls or some extra special sugar work for the top of your chocolate cake. This is a rather messy cake anyway so I found it best not to get too precious about the presentation!

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What’s your favourite cake for an occasion? Do you have a favourite chocolate cake recipe?

 

The Drinks Report: Cawston Press Rhubarb

The Drinks Report: Cawston Press Rhubarb

I picked up this new Cawston Press Rhubarb this week and it was too good to not throw into the drinks report this week!

Cawston Press RhubarbCawston Press Rhubarb

I love the Cawston Press Apple and Ginger juice – my Aunt makes great cocktails with it – and I’m also a huge fan of their branding.  This all meant I was pretty pleased when Kate let me try this sparkling rhubarb version earlier this week and I saw it nestled on the shelves next to the meal deals.

It’s super tangy and refreshing, ‘deliciously tart’, just like it says on the tin! I really love that none of it is from concentrate – it really tastes like there’s real fruit all up in there instead of just a ton of sugar.

Have you tried the Cawston Press Rhubarb? What are you keeping refreshed with on these hot summer days?

The Food Report: Yardbird

The Food Report: Yardbird

Last week after a rather arduous train journey I met Kate for a trip to Yardbird, the newly opened chicken shop on the corner of Berry St and Duke St in Liverpool. As it’s on my walk home from town I have watched with interest as they fitted out the shop, put up the signs and then drew cactuses on the windows to tell us about the chicken and shakes.

Yardbird Liverpool food

As is our usual way when trying a new place we went for a selection of things to try and share. Kate had the chicken with biscuit and gravy, whilst I tried a chicken or egg burger. Kate was a bit concerned about the potential sweetness of the biscuits, but said that it was actually pretty delicious, if a little filling. The chicken or egg burger was perfect chicken with a crispy coating and tender inside, plus pancetta, swiss, a deep fried egg, salad, pink sauce and a Drumstick for afters. It’s an absolute hot mess – I wouldn’t necessarily advise this as a spot for a date – but it is a real treat. The deep fried egg was the most intriguing element for us, and was like a poached egg with an ever so slightly crispy outer. Brioche buns are a bit of a fad that I know is not for everyone (you know a trend food has probably gone on too long when it appears in Tesco) but I really love them, so this was excellent for me.

Yardbird Liverpool chicken or egg burger

To accompany these we had French fries, which will be perfect for you if you’re a fan of the ones from the big yellow M. As regular readers will know, I love a good slaw (it’s not a Nom Nom Club if I don’t make a slaw), so any establishment selling two versions will be in my good books. We opted for the red cabbage, raisin and pine nut which was the perfect mix of crunchy, sweet and tangy from the flecks of wholegrain mustard peppered throughout. No gloopy mayo here!

Yardbird Liverpool food

Our star of the evening was the buffalo fried cauliflower florets with blue cheese. I love roasted cauliflower so I suspected I might like these although I was a little dubious about the blue cheese. I was wrong! The creamy but light cheese dressing was the perfect foil to the spicy tang of the buffalo sauce, and we ate these up with delight.

We washed all this down with cola, as a Monday night was not quite the time for a hardshake, but on my next visit I definitely want to try one of the many sours on offer, along with some chicken and doughnuts. It’s no secret that my obsession for all things sweet and salty is overwhelming and I could definitely satisfy this at Yardbird.

The atmosphere was great too, with excellent tunes, plenty of plants dotted around and windows enticing you in with neon and adorable drawings.

I’ve seen some fairly mixed Yardbird reviews on social media but I can safely say that we had quick service and great food, and are keen to return soon!

Have you been to Yardbird? What did you eat? What should I try?

The Drinks Report: Cocktails

The Drinks Report: Cocktails

The last week seems to have been very cocktail themed for me – a quick sunny Bramble on Wednesday, giving my favourite recipe recommendations for birthday parties, Pimms Cups and unexpected gin on Thursday and then roof garden Pimms on Friday. That’s without even mentioning all of the wedding Pimms!

I wanted to share some of my favourite cocktails so I thought I would start with my favourites in Liverpool. Obviously you will be able to get these elsewhere too!

Singapore Sling at Berry and Rye

Berry and Rye is really the place to be if you consider yourself a true cocktail aficionado. Hidden behind a dark door, you’ll need to knock to get in and go in a small group to find a space. With menus hidden within books, a dark den atmosphere and table service, this is a decadent place to start a night out or take a hot date after dinner. A Singapore Sling is always an excellent choice, and the Berry and Rye version is packed with sweet, fruity flavour and enough gin to smack you in the face. Luckily you’ll have been given glasses of water on the way in, which should keep you classy and hold off the spinning. In days gone by Berry and Rye barely had a menu – you told them what you liked and they would throw something together. Now, they have a pretty extensive offering, but if you ask really nicely they’re usually happy to whip up something just for you. This bar is definitely for a treat, not your standard Friday night, but it’s worth going the extra mile, and whilst the prices are a little higher than a £1 Carlsberg at the Pilgrim they are no more than you would pay for a great cocktail elsewhere.

The only trouble with the lovely atmosphere is the terrible photos…

Singapore Sling at Berry and Rye

Marley Mojito at Tribeca

Across the road on Berry Street you’ll find Tribeca. Loved for its pizza, they also serve up £3.50 midweek cocktails, and one of these is the Marley Mojito. I’m an absolute sucker for a good mojito, although I’ve rather moved on from all the Wetherspoons versions my 18-year-old self drank (and gave up on dry January for). I think the key is that I love anything with fresh mint, but the rum helps too! This Marley version from Tribeca has the essential mint, Bacardi oakheart spiced rum and a good spoonful of apricot jam. I might be over the obsession with serving everything in jam jars, but I’ll forgive Tribeca for this one as it’s just so darn good.

They also do a rather excellent version of an amaretto sour with added gin, and I have friends who will go well out of their way for one of the bubblegum sours.

Marley Mojito at Tribeca

Mayflower at The Font

The Font is a definite Friday favourite for me – so close to work and £2 cocktails! My favourite of these is the Mayflower (I think it was recently renamed the Mayflower Collins when they introduced a whole range of Collins’). Elderflower, gin and apricot is a dream combination for me, so no matter how many times I try to pick something new off the menu, I’ll usually end up with one of these in my hand. If you hate elderflower or apricot (what?!) then The Font also provide an excellent Bramble and I really love the Coconut Daiquiri for ultimate refreshment. With a £2 Font card you can get 3 £2 cocktails for £5, so you can always get your gin fix!

Mayflower at The Font

Pimms Cup at Kazimier Gardens

I’ve spoken of my love for this before, but my point still stands because this is probably the best Pimms in Liverpool. With extra gin, ginger ale and enough fruit for your five-a-day in a quite frankly giant glass it is perfection, especially on a Thursday when you need an extra special pick me up.

Pimms Cup at Kazimier Gardens

Frozen Margharitas at Lucha Libre

I’ve also mentioned these before, but seriously, anyone would make friends over one of these. Mine’s a peach or tamarind. Lucha also serve the excellent alcoholic Mint and Mango Lassi with El Jimador Reposado tequila – a somehow sweet and savoury drink that is perfectly smooth against a fiery burrito.

Frozen Margharitas at Lucha Libre

What are you favourite cocktails? Tell me all about them! Next time I’ll share some of my favourites to make at home.

The Food Report: Glastonbury

The Food Report: Glastonbury

One of my favourite things about festivals is the food. Whilst others are frantically running between bands what I really want to do is investigate whether my favourite noodle place is on site, and where I can get a pie from.

As Glastonbury crew, we were well looked after with two meals a day. A daily cooked breakfast was a real treat, but you also need all those calories for the miles of walking across the site, and we usually finished the day with bakewell tart, lemon meringue pie or sprinkle-covered cake, so we were usually pretty happy. This didn’t stop us sampling a few delights from the festival along the way, so I thought I’d share those today…

Rola Wala treated us to a Goan pulled pork with beetroot paneer dhal wrap. This was simply delicious – an excellent twist on the pulled pork trend with plenty of fresh salad, sweet little pink onions and a surprise Bombay mix thrown into an amazingly light and springy bread. I loved their branding too – hopefully I’ll see them at another festival soon!

Rola Wala Beetroot Paneer Wrap

For an afternoon treat we had cake at Lynda’s Loaf in the Greenpeace fields – everyone in their beautiful stall was so kind to us! I love carrot cake and this was a particularly excellent piece but everything they had on offer looked incredible, especially as everything was organic and locally sourced. Working with the Green Trader awards made this really important for us – we tried the winners’ seasonal samosas which were perfectly crisp and filled with deliciously spiced vegetables, with chutney and pickles on the side, the perfect late night snack after our ciders!

Lynda's Loaf Carrot Cake

We also tried some salted dried broad beans from Hendra’s health store, also in the Greenpeace fields, but I neglected to take a picture of those! I also failed to take a picture of our free good deed pie! A lost and rescued phone resulted in us making friends with the lovely people from Pieminister, who treated us all to a Heidi or a Wildshroom whilst we watched Dolly. Glastonbury was definitely one of those times when I put the pictures into my head and rarely picked up my camera – I’ve been taking lots of photos lately though so the food reports will be extra exciting in the next few weeks.

What are your favourite festival food stalls? I’m heading to my fifth WOMAD in a couple of weeks so I want to hear all your top tips!

The Food Report: Lunch Ideas

The Food Report: Lunch Ideas

Summer is here and I’ve got that feeling from school days of being allowed onto the field at lunchtime.

With summer comes a whole new lunch agenda. Winter for me is soup almost every day, or leftovers from big bowls of stew. In summer, though, I need something fresh and light for my lunch, and it can be a bit of a challenge.

With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my favourite lunch ideas from the past few weeks, in case you too are in need of a little inspiration.

I find the key to good, fresh lunches, unlike soups which I can just pull out of the freezer, is to prepare. I tend to spend my Sunday mornings drinking tea, planning meals and getting ingredients ready – cooking big batches of grains and getting salads chopped.

One of the salads that is nice and easy to prepare ahead is Moroccan spiced carrot salad.

This is an Ottolenghi recipe that I made one Sunday and ate for lunch a couple of times with couscous and a good dollop of yoghurt and coriander.

Moroccan spiced carrot saladMoroccan spiced carrot salad

It’s spicy with chillies and paprika, mellow with cumin and sweet with preserved lemons and the sprinkling of sugar. The couscous can be cooked ahead so it’s easy to pack up each night ready for the day ahead. 

Noodle salad

If you described a noodle salad to me I would think it was a disgusting idea. Cold noodles?! Nope. And yet, with a great dressing and some crunchy vegetables, it’s everything I want in a lunch.

noodle salad

This one has peppers, spinach and edamame beans with a dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin and sweet chilli, all sprinked with a handful of sesame seeds.

Couscous in all its delicious forms

Couscous is the best – you can cook a load on Sunday and add delicious toppings to it all week. You can see it here with tomatoes, cucumber, spinach, avocado and sunflower seeds. Add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to bring it all together. Whilst I’m on dressings, I want to recommend these Sauce to Go bottles. They’re ideal for making salads exciting at lunchtime without ending up with a box full of soggy leaves.

couscous with avocado, tomato and sunflower seeds couscous with roasted peppers and spinach

If you have some more time to spare you can add more prepared elements than simply chopped salads – this one has roasted peppers along with spinach and mint. I love slow roasting pieces of pepper, the flavour and texture is amazing, and because of the way they cook down you can get loads of nutrients into one bowlful!

I hope this has inspired you a little bit! What’s your favourite lunch?

The Drinks Report: Iced Chai Latte Recipe

The Drinks Report: Iced Chai Latte Recipe

After last week’s foray into iced green tea, today I was looking for something milky to accompany a slice of cake and potting up my plants. I absolutely love chai, and I’m going through a real iced coffee phase at the moment, so I decided to go for an iced chai latte recipe that I could share with you.

Lakeland silicon tea bag

I used my new Lakeland silicon tea bag, a handy tea strainer that is easy to fill and perfect for no-mess tea brewing.

I filled this with Kandula Ceylon Ebony Chai Tea. This is one of my favourite chai teas as it’s got a really interesting and many-layered flavour. I think it’s the rose petals that make it so good.

Iced Chai Latte Recipe

To make my iced chai latte, I steeped a bag of the Kandula Chai in just a little water for about 15 minutes – enough to really concentrate the tea flavour into the water and let it cool a little. Whilst it was brewing I added some honey to sweeten the tea. You can use sugar or honey but I prefer the latter for a mellow sweetness rather than the high notes of sugar.

I added plenty of ice and topped the whole thing up with cold milk before enjoying. You could make this an extra treat by using half milk and half condensed milk or cream, or I think it would work fantastically with almond milk. Be sure to adjust your added sugar if you use any sweetened milk.

Iced Chai Latte Recipe Iced Chai Latte Recipe

Do you like iced chai? What’s your favourite loose leaf tea?

The Food Report: Homemade Yoghurt

The Food Report: Homemade Yoghurt

I eat yoghurt pretty much every day – on my breakfast, in salad dressings, with spicy foods, as desserts. It’s the most versatile of ingredients and I’ve wanted a yogurt maker for a long time.

Last month, after a little research, I settled on the Lakeland Electric Yoghurt Maker – this seemed the best option for me as involves little fuss and mess, as well as using very little electricity to make the yoghurt overnight.

Lakeland Electric Yoghurt Maker

Once you start the process with a little shop-bought natural yoghurt in the first batch, you can use the homemade yoghurt as the starter for all future batches, so it’s basically self-sufficient! Homemade yoghurt is quite thin, so I strain it through muslin to get a Greek-style yoghurt – a couple of hours and it’s a perfect thick yoghurt, leave it overnight and you can spread it like a ricotta, great on bagels!

homemade yoghurt straining

Now I have lovely homemade yoghurt I’m keen to do all sorts of things with it. Today I just wanted to share some very basic things I use yoghurt for, but I’ll be trying other exciting things soon.

You can add loads of toppings to homemade yoghurt because the flavour really stands up to anything – a fruit coulis would be great but I really love pistachios and honey for a Greek feel.

homemade yoghurt with honey and pistachios

Spread yoghurt in fajitas instead of soured cream or have it plain with other mezze.

homemade yoghurt on quorn fajitashomemade yoghurt with mezze

Use it in a dressing with tahini. This is especially great with a tofu and cucumber salad, or thrown over butternut squash with cardamom and limes as Ottolenghi suggests (this recipe is in Plenty and is absolutely delicious). Throw the lime skins into a cold beer and you’ve got a real Friday night treat.

butternut squash, salted limes, homemade yoghurt, tahini

There are also lots of simple desserts to be made with yoghurt. Inspired by some gooseberries at delifonseca last week I made a very quick gooseberry yoghurt fool. This is much better for you than the usual cream, but just as great. First I whipped my yoghurt to make it extra thick and creamy, then added a little icing sugar and some gooosberries lightly stewed with water. I didn’t add sugar to them as I like them tart, and you can always add more icing sugar later.

homemade yoghurt gooseberry fool

Next up I want to try baking with yoghurt – I’m particularly taken with the idea of something involving cardamom.

Have you made homemade yoghurt? What do you like to eat it with?

The Drinks Report: Iced Green Mint Tea

The Drinks Report: Iced Green Mint Tea

I’m a little late with this week’s Drinks Report – I hadn’t drunk anything particularly inspiring this week and felt a little at a loss, but I hope this refreshing summery drink will make up for this!

Yesterday we popped into Leaf for a light early evening supper and I was excited to see that they were serving up iced teas for the summer months.

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I tried the black tea and mango version, which was refreshing whilst still rich with the taste of tea. We also tried the passionfruit and orange as well as the strawberry and kiwi – these were more fruity, and looked fabulous!

Inspired by these and returning to a sunny home after lunch today, I decided to put together an iced tea of my own.IMG_2925

I started with a green and peppermint tea bag, steeping this for two minutes in just a little boiled water (remember to let it cool so you don’t burn the tea!). I added two wedges of lemon and some sprigs of mint from my little plant, muddling them a little to get the juice and flavours out, and let the water cool before topping up with more cold water. I keep a bottle in the fridge so there is always a cold drink ready for a hot day. Then I popped in plenty of ice and enjoyed my green tea. This one was super refreshing but I can imagine lots of variations on it – slices of frozen peach in a peach and cherry blossom green tea, cucumber in rose tea or plenty of apples and mint in sweet Turkish apple.

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What are your favourite iced teas?

P.S. You can now follow me on Instagram: millie_epona!

The Food Report: Farm Feast

The Food Report: Farm Feast

This weekend I headed over the water to Bebington for a trip to Farm Feast. It promised to be a wonderful day full of food, drinks and music, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Farm Feast strawberry tunnels

After a surprisingly quick train ride we were keen to start the day with a pre-lunch snack; an amuse bouche if you will. We very quickly found the Homemade Scotch Egg Company. I’ve only recently tried a scotch egg and decided I might like them, but there were two named after me so it would have been rude not to try one! The Millie was gluten free, with fresh apple, and was definitely delicious.

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We accompanied this with some spears of asparagus and hollandaise from the Claremont Farm asparagus patch. It’s always great to eat something in season, and after being massive fans of last year’s asparagus pop-up shop it was great to eat the lovely stems on the farm itself. Perfectly unctuous hollandaise, green and fresh asparagus and a tart squeeze of lemon eaten greedily with your fingers might just be a perfect dish.

We explored all over the site,where we found a sheep show in full swing, dancers opening the Aloha bar, strawberry tunnels, a tent full of cakes and a Berry and Rye hut tucked away in the trees.

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We popped into the demonstration tents to see some cheese-making, which really inspired me – I can’t wait to have a go at making my own soon – and we were also lucky enough to see Brendan Lynch of Bake Off fame giving his tips on choux pastry. He suggested adding rose petals to your signets if you’re trying to seduce someone. Let’s face it, it would work on me!

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We had Tiki Pimbs from Aloha, some marvellous Redwillow Seamless ale, perfectly barbecued chicken subs with crunchy slaw and chilli mango sauce, tiny crescent almondies, galette aux pêche, perfectly marinated garlic and a million samples of cheese.

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The food was clearly fantastic, but I also really enjoyed getting into the countryside, especially when it was just 20 minutes out of the city. A day in wellies is always good for you.

Farm Feast was brilliant – I would thoroughly recommend and I hope we can go back next year!