Christmas has arrived at How to cook good food. Puddings, cakes and mincemeat have been made with more to follow. I am teaching a few Christmas themed workshops over at The Larder, Cobham and also at The Art of Living Cookshop in Banstead.
But even better than that. I have a brand new website for my cookery lessons. Learn to cook good food has had a makeover by a local mum and web designer Emma Fletcher. Thanks for the recommendation Kathy McGuiness over at Local Mums Online! There are a few tweaks needed in the spelling department due to coding issues but these will be resolved by next week. Click HERE to see!
I would really appreciate a few visits and maybe even a follow or two. The site will be featuring recipes, photos of what we get up to in out lessons and a calendar of events (still working on this) as well as the option of buying gift vouchers. It has been a long time coming and has taken up a fair bit of time pulling together all the ideas so I would love to know what you think of it.
Moving onto my food reviews for the last time in 2013, here are some of the products I have been sent to test out and what I think of them. I do try to limit what I accept and only agree to review products which I am pretty sure I will like. If not like, then it will be things that are interesting and stand out a little from the rather plentiful crowd of food products available.
Total Greek Yoghurt
Love this. Have been using it for years. This is my Greek yoghurt of choice and it has the perfect combination of thick creamy tangy yoghurt that works so well in a number of ways. It has a texture so perfect that other brands try to imitate. The zero fat variety is just as good, a rare thing in the low-fat world of food.
How do I use it?
-In dips, especially Tsatziki. But also in a Feta & basil dip another of my favourites.
-In cakes. Yoghurt provides a welcome tang and works especially well in a lemon & yogurt cake.
-In marinades. I love to marinade meats in yoghurt. It tenderises the meat beautifully. For a simple tandoori marinade I add some Tandoori spices, yoghurt, lemon, garlic & salt. Add the meat and leave overnight if possible.
- For an extra indulgent smoothie add in some Greek yoghurt. You will stay full until lunch, guaranteed.
-Enjoy the superb flavour either as a breakfast with berries and honey or as a healthy pudding with some fruit compote/dried fruit compote and a few toasted nuts.
Hotel Chocolat Halloween Chocolates
A month out of date I know, but I did receive an impressive select of Hotel Chocolat Halloween shapes in white, milk and dark chocolate. They were individually wrapped pieces that were shaped in keeping with Halloween. Tombstones, black cats, witches fingers and skulls. I did manage to road test the chocolate during some of my Halloween pop-up bake clubs and the children all went crazy for them. I served them in a black cauldron much to the delight of all the kids. They lasted minutes and were appreciated by all.
Baobab Fruit Powder
This comes into the interesting category. That’s why I had to try it. It does not taste of anything significant, although it has a slight sharp tang to it. But, it is supposed to have health benefits. It is a tangy fruit powder packed full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Available to buy from The Eden Project, Cornwall.
How do I use it?
-Smoothies, add a spoon in with your other ingredients.
-Flapjacks. Add a spoon here too, it is not a discernible flavour but it is good for you so why not!
-Granola. I added some to my latest granola. Again the flavour is not obvious but it seems to work well in healthy recipes.
-Breakfast cereals. I sprinkled some on my cereal to see if I would feel it’s benefits. Hard to tell, but I haven’t been ill for ages so maybe I will carry on using it.
-Breakfast muffins and breads. I have sprinkled some into my breakfast bakes. The packet is generous and will probably last me the best part of a year.
There are so many ingredients suppliers out there online now that I find it hard to decide which I should try out. When Just Ingredients got in touch, the timing was perfect. I decided to give them a try by suggesting they send me over a selection of Christmas goodies. They very generously sent me over cinnamon sticks, whole and chopped candied peel, natural glace cherries, dried cranberries, vanilla pods AND ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon and mixed spice.
What struck me most was the quality of the ingredients they sent over. The spices smell incredible, a far step away from what you will ever buy in your supermarket. The candied fruits are glisteningly fresh and have already made it into some of my Christmas bakes. I will be taking the rest along with me to my demonstrations to show others just how good and reasonably priced their products are. The highlight being the cinnamon sticks, real top class and produced in Sri Lanka.
Here is what they say:
“We are passionate about culinary and botanical ingredients, seeking out the best herbs and spices from the top producers around the world. We only source the highest standard products and by purchasing from source, we can pass these saving on to our customers”.
How do I use their products?
As I mentioned above, the idea was to use these ingredients in all of my Christmas baking and that is what I am doing. The cinnamon sticks will also be added to my mulled wine and into curries and slow cooked lamb dishes.
The candied peel is perfect for Christmas cakes, puddings, mincemeat, Stollen and Panettone.
I would recommend keeping the ground spices in a tight locking Tupperware, away from any direct light. The smell as you open the box is something quite special.
Clarks’s Maple Syrups
I have loved maple syrup forever. Waffles and maple syrup was one of my favourite treats as a child. That dark slightly smoky flavour still remains a favourite today and Clark’s sent me over a few types to try out. Theses were Original, Vanilla, No.1 Medium grade & No.2 Amber grade. The vanilla and original variety contain carob fruit syrup and natural flavouring and claim to contain 25% less sugar, so if you are after something authentic in flavour, then do go for the Amber or Medium grade which have no added ingredients. .
How do I use it?
-Granola.I made a maple syrup and peanut butter based granola, using tow other products I got sent. Whole Earth Peanut Butter & Baobab powder featured in the granola along with some muesli I bought but didn’t like so I thought it best to turn it into a lovely sweet crunchy snack. I love snacking in Granola. And a batch lasts for ages. It is by far cheaper to make it yourself and the taste os always superior. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe this time.
-Flapjacks. I love replacing some of the golden syrup with maple syrup.
-Icing. I like to make a maple syrup frosting for cakes. It works particularly well in cakes like pumpkin or carrot. Maple is also a natural partner to walnuts and pecan nuts, so a nutty cake would benefit fro a maple frosting too.
-Pancakes & waffles. There is nothing better than enjoying a stack of pancakes or Belgian waffles served warm with vanilla ice cream and a jug of maple syrup. The flavours are perfect together. For breakfast why not try waffles with crisp smoked bacon and maple syrup. It is amazing.
Whole Earth Peanut Butters & Chocolate Spread
I have always tended to but natural peanut butters, simply because I prefer the flavour. I like the more natural taste and look of the peanut better they make and it doesn’t have the over whipped over sweetened taste of some brands out there. The 3 nut butter is a new discovery to me. This was my favourite. Hazelnuts, peanuts and cashews make this more of a sweet flavoured butter because of the natural sweetness of the nuts. It is the perfect partner to the chocolate spread. I wonder if they will bring out a jar of these two together. A 3 nut chocolate spread swirled pot of heaven could be very popular I bet.
How do I use it?
-Granola. As I mentioned above, I used the regular crunchy variety in the granola recipe along with the maple syrup & Baobab powder.
-Cookies. A good peanut butter cookie is always made better by using a good peanut butter in the first place. Whole Earth is very good indeed.
-Peanut dressing for Thai noodle salad. I love a spicy peanut butter type dressing for a cold noodle salad. I usually add in some sweet chilli sauce and lots of lime juice and ginger. The sauce is highly addictive.
-As a snack. It makes a lovely topping to vegetable sticks. Celery and cucumber in particular but carrot and peppers are also god with it.
-Icing. I often make a quick icing by combining chocolate spread with cream cheese as a topping for cupcakes or a sponge cake.
I have also been road testing a KMix this month, putting it through it’s paces with copious amount of Christmas baking and using it for my new found hobby of Sourdough bread making. A Kenwood post and details of what I have been making in it and my thoughts on it will be following on soon.
*Many thanks to Total, The Eden Project, Just Ingredients, Clark’s, Whole Earth and Hotel Chocolat for their gifts. All opinions expressed here are my own. I was provided with products to sample for review purposes. I only choose to write about products I like. If I am not happy with a specific product, I will not write about it and will let the brand know my reasons why*