28 May 2013

Summer lovin'

This weekend was a perfect little taster of how summer will be might be if we get one this year.  We spent the majority of the weekend sorting out our garden - the lawn was in a mess when we moved in and we've only just got around to taking it up and re-turfing it.  I seriously underestimated how much hard work it would be but I'm really happy now it's done and I have an overwhelming sense of pride knowing that we did it ourselves!

We did manage to spend yesterday afternoon and evening at Danny's parents' having a barbecue and Tyler cuddles.  I can't believe Tyler's nearly four months old already - it seems like only the other day that he was born!  I can't wait to have more barbecues over the summer - nothing beats chilling out in the garden on a warm summer's evening with a glass of wine and good company :)

25 March 2013

Monday munchies: S'mores cake

I've been dying to post this recipe since I made the cake on Friday for my friend Jen's birthday - it went down quite well I think and since you lot always love naughty, chocolatey recipes, I'm sure you'll love it too! For those of you who don't know, s'mores are an American campfire favourite - marshmallow and chocolate melted together between two graham crackers.  Jen's husband asked me to make a s'mores themed cake for her since she became hooked on s'mores whilst travelling across America - it seemed like a great excuse to make a gooey, indulgent cake so I jumped at the chance!

S'mores cake
Serves 12-14

50g cocoa powder
6 tbsp boiling water
3 large eggs
50ml milk
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
160g butter
275g caster sugar
300g dark chocolate
240ml whipping cream
1 tbsp honey
marshmallow fluff
graham crackers (if you're in the UK, use digestive biscuits)
dark chocolate chips
chocolate sauce

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/160 degrees fan.  Sieve the cocoa powder, mix in the boiling water and stir until combined into a thick paste.

Add the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, 100g butter and caster sugar and mix into a thick batter.

Split the mixture between two greased 20cm sandwich tins, making sure the mixture is spread evenly, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes and then turn onto wire racks until completely cool.  Make the chocolate ganache by adding the cream and honey to a saucepan and bringing to the boil.  Break the dark chocolate into pieces and pour the cream over, stirring continuously until smooth.  Add the remaining 60g butter and whisk until blended completely.

Allow the ganache to cool.  Spread the marshmallow fluff over one of the cakes, completely covering the surface.

Spread some of the ganache over the other cake, again completely covering the surface.  Sandwich the two cakes together with the marshmallow and chocolate in the centre of the cake.

Pour the remaining ganache over the top of the cake and allow to set.  Decorate with marshmallows, biscuit pieces, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce.

When I made this, I piled some chocolate matchmakers in the middle of the cake to resemble a bonfire and added some toasted marshmallows over the bonfire with wire.  You don't need to do this step though - it works just as well without!

I'd love to know if you try this recipe - I spent a lot of time browsing s'mores cake recipes online before deciding to come up with my own, so if you try it please let me know :)

20 March 2013

Ruby Jean's Diner at The Oakford Social Club

Since we last paid a visit to Byron, my bestie Bee and I have been planning our next burger trip.  We don't have a Byron near us (sob!) so Bee started the hunt for an alternative and came across Ruby Jean's Diner at The Oakford Social Club.  I've been to The Oakford many times for after work drinks but had never eaten there so we thought we'd give it a try.

We started off with a couple of Very Berry mojitos while we perused the menu.  I plumped for the Ruby Jean's burger - a tasty little combination with smoked bacon, emmental, mushroom and onion rings, while Bee went for the smoked bacon and cheese.  Oh, and we couldn't resist ordering a side of crispy battered vegetables - a delicious mixture of deep fried mushroom, red pepper and courgette.

After a long pause and a good natter (we had to let the burgers go down before we tried to squeeze in dessert!) we ordered The Threesome - a sharing plate of New York cheesecake, chocolate brownie and chocolate chip cookie with ice cream.


Good value and delicious - you can't go wrong!  In absence of a Byron on our doorstep, this place will definitely be getting repeat visits from us!

The Oakford Social Club is directly opposite Reading Station on Blagrave Street, serves food from 12pm until 10pm every day and often has live music (including BBC Introducing!) - give it a try!

The Oakford Social Club
53 Blagrave Street
Reading RG1 1PZ
(0118) 959 4267

25 February 2013

Monday munchies: Raspberry soufflés

Unfortunately I only took one photo last time I made these (it was for a dinner party so I couldn't really take my time over making them!) but I think they look delicious enough that one photo does them justice!  A lot of people I know are really scared about making soufflés but these honestly are quite easy and won't sink, trust me!

Raspberry soufflés
Makes 4

150g raspberries
100ml water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 large eggs
50g golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/150 degrees fan.  Add the raspberries, water and granulated sugar to a small pan and heat on the hob.  Stir until the raspberries have cooked down into a sauce.  Taste the sauce to check that it is sweet enough (the exact amount of sugar you need to add will vary based on personal preference and the time of year that you buy the raspberries)

Divide the sauce between four ramekins, leaving about a teaspoon of sauce in the pan, and allow to cool.  Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks.  Add a spoonful of the golden caster sugar and the remaining raspberry sauce and mix again.

Mix the remaining golden caster sugar into the egg yolks then add a tablespoon of the egg white mixture into the yolks.  Fold in the rest of the egg whites using a metal spoon.  Spoon the mixture into the ramekins.

Place the ramekins on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes.  Before serving, sift the icing sugar over the top and voilà!

14 February 2013

Baby love

I'd like to introduce you all to my baby nephew, Tyler.  He was born on Thursday 7th February 2013 weighing 6 pounds and 11 ounces and screaming his little lungs out! I'm completely besotted and cannot get enough of this little man! Max, on the other hand, isn't particularly pleased about being overshadowed.....

As you can imagine with them living only ten minutes from us, we've spent quite a lot of time this week visiting - so far I've managed to avoid nappy changes in favour of cuddles, although I've been told they'll be coming shortly!  I don't mind though - I'm such a proud auntie that I'll do any of it at the moment! ♥

11 February 2013

Monday munchies: Millionaire's flapjack

My brother got me the Gü chocolate cookbook for Christmas (best brother ever!) so I decided to put it to good use and made some millionaire's flapjack to take into the office.  The verdict?  Well they all disappeared before most of my department had a chance to try them....

Millionaire's flapjack
Makes 16

200g unsalted butter
125g light soft brown sugar
100g golden syrup
220ml condensed milk
225g oats
100g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/150 degrees fan.  Melt 125g butter, 50g sugar, 20ml condensed milk and the golden syrup on the hob.

Add the oats and spread evenly into a square baking tin.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

While the flapjack is cooling, melt the remaining sugar, butter and condensed milk together.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Pour the caramel over the flapjack and set in the fridge.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and spoon over the set caramel.

Put the flapjack back into the fridge to allow the chocolate to set.

Once set, cut into squares and they're ready to eat!  A perfect cross between flapjack and millionaire's shortbread - let me know if you try them!

4 February 2013

Monday munchies: Leek, asparagus and gruyère quiche

I made this over Christmas for my first attempt at a quiche (nothing like heaping the pressure on myself when I've promised to take it to my parents' for Boxing Day tea!)  It's a bit of a combination of two recipes but it worked out well so I thought I'd share it...

Leek, asparagus and gruyère quiche
Serves 8

300g plain flour
140g butter
2 eggs
284ml double cream
70g gruyère
1 leek
75g asparagus spears
8 tbsp cold water

20cm flan tin

Preheat oven to 200 degrees/180 degrees fan.  Tip the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together with your fingers until mixed together and crumbly.

Add the water and squeeze the mixture into a ball.  If the mixture feels sticky, dust with a little flour.

Roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the flan tin.

Place the pastry over the top of the tin and press into the corners using a small ball of dough.

Cut off the excess pastry from around the edge of the tin and prick the base with a fork.  Chill the base in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Slice the leeks and asparagus spears diagonally and set aside.

Blind bake the base for 20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and cook for a further 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, gradually add in the cream and season.

While the base is cooling, sauté the asparagus and leeks in a pan with a drizzle of oil.

Grate the gruyère and sprinkle over the base.

Scatter the vegetables over the cheese and pour over the egg mixture.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until set and golden.  Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

You can use the basic quiche recipe for any flavour you like - let me know if you try something different!

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