Last Saturday, we spent the evening at Nick Nairn Cook School in Aberdeen. The smells drifting down from the upstairs classrooms when we walked in to the school set our stomachs rumbling before our class even started!The class began with a glass of wine for everybody and then we settled down to watch the chef cook ‘The Perfect Steak‘. He talked us through each step and gave us lots of good tips and interesting facts, about the meat to choose, what sort of pans to use and how long to cook the meat. We all got a taste of the steak when he was finished and it was, no question, the best steak I have ever tried! It was served with parmesan sauteed potatoes and a rocket salad with a gorgeous parmesan and lemon dressing, all of which we were taught to cook. Next it was our turn. We all had our own station (there were ten people in the group) and the chef walked around to help us as we went, while also topping up our wine glasses. We used induction hobs which I had never used before but I was very impressed with them and now want one of my own! Our own steaks turned out pretty well but were not quite up to the standard of the chef’s. I guess practice makes perfect (we already have all of the ingredients to give the dish another go tonight…)!We had such a fun evening and learned so much in just two hours. Our teacher was really helpful and the atmosphere was lovely and relaxed. I have already been trying to decide which course I want to try next… The full day Thai course looks amazing, as does the three hour Master Pasta and Chocolate Therapy!
A few weeks ago I was treated to afternoon tea at The Marcliffe Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The Marcliffe is a well known hotel up in Aberdeen, being the only 5 star hotel in the city. It really is a gorgeous hotel (I haven’t stayed overnight but have been for dinner and was super impressed!) but is unfortunately closing before Christmas due to the owner retiring.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were shown into the drawing room where we sat on comfy, squishy old fashioned armchairs in the bay window. Glasses of chilled champagne were brought over to us as we browsed the menu to choose our sandwiches and teas. We went for some forest fruits and some honey and camomile tea. When the food arrive it looked delicious on the tiered stand and I was excited to see that there were 4 whole cakes each! The sandwiches were nothing special to be honest but everything else tasted fantastic. I even managed to forget about my camera, I was so distracted by the food! The scones were amazing, still warm from the oven and served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Finally, the selection of cakey things was really good – a light but creamy strawberry tart, some sort of mascapone and orange concoction, a gooey chocolate brownie and a lovely moist lemon drizzle cake.
The food and drink was wonderful and the afternoon was made by the staff who were friendly, attentive when they needed to be but not standing too near or watching us which always makes me feel uncomfortable! We had a lovely relaxed afternoon and I would really love to go back. I might need to take a day off work though to do that as we booked this all the way back in February to get a weekend booking, everyone seems to want to visit before it closes! It is such a shame that the hotel is closing – hopefully we will be able to squeeze in another meal before it shuts its doors.
Last weekend I had the chance to visit the Intercontinental London Westminster to indulge in their Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea with Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne. The menu has been inspired by the flower show and the room was decorated with gorgeous flower displays. When we arrived we were shown to our table where our waiter introduced himself and then left us with a glass of bubbly to choose our tea. There were so many to choose from including black teas, white teas, green teas, flowering teas and herbal teas. In the end we went for the White Peony described as “Delightfully refreshing, rounded and full-flavoured with sweet and fragrant notes of melon” and the Taiwan Li Shan – “Highly floral complex and refreshing with a glycerous and wonderfully creamy texture”. I wasn’t too keen on the Taiwan Li Shan but the White Peony was lovely.Once we were settled with our teas the first plates of foods arrived. The bottom layer was a selection of finger sandwiches – the beef and horseradish ones were so delicious we asked for seconds – and the middle layer was a blackberry Eccles cake and slice of fruit loaf each. The top layer was by far the most exciting and looked so pretty! Every perfectly formed cake/pastry tasted divine and looked so beautiful I just had to take photos of all of them….
1. Lavender and strawberry tart
2. Jasmine and jivara mille feuille
3. White chocolate and orange blossom shot with pistachio crumble (this was exquisite!)
4. White chocolate marshmallow teacake infused with White Peony tea
5. Raspberry macaroon
6. Violet éclair
After we had finished the cakes and pastries, a plate of freshly baked scones arrived with Devonshire clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd. Again, these tasted amazing! Even though we were feeling full from all the food and champagne we both managed to squeeze in two scones topped with masses of cream and jam.After another glass of champagne, we were brought the finishing touch – a glass teapot containing one mango and one raspberry mousse lollipop and a white chocolate butterfly. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful afternoon! The service was faultless and our waiter couldn’t have done more for us, explaining what was on each plate and topping up our champagne whenever it looked as though we might finish a glass! The atmosphere was relaxed, with a live harpist in the background, and even though there were lots of staff ready to help, they weren’t hovering near the tables making us feel as though we were being watched all the time. I would love to go back to the Intercontinental and would definitely recommend the afternoon tea if you are looking for something special to do.
A few weeks ago I was sent a couple of packs of Kallo rice cakes to try. One pack was caramel and the other blueberry and vanilla. I wasn’t really sure when I would eat these as they aren’t really all that easy to take into work for lunch without them falling apart but I’ve found the perfect time to munch on them! I recently signed up to run 10k with work (which I am seriously regretting – I hate running!) and these are a great snack between getting home from work and going for a practice run. They are really tasty and the blueberry ones are a pretty purple colour! The rice cakes cost £1.79 per pack and you can find them in Tesco.
1. Guylian Luxury Belgian Collection: Do I even need to explain why this is in here? Everyone loves Guylian and this box is massive! £16.99 for 517g
2. Dubliner Irish Whiskey: I think I end up buying whiskey every year for one or more of the men in my family! Dubliner is apparently a blend of honeycomb, caramel and whiskey flavours so it sounds like a whiskey I might actually like myself! RRP £19.49.
4. Cherizena Christmas Coffee: This coffee is flavoured with rum, nuts and spice and is available as beans or ground, regular or decaffeinated. A great present for coffee lovers! Find out more on the Facebook page. RRP £3 for 115g
5. Lindor Stracciatella: These limited edition truffles are delicious – nice and creamy with little bits of crunchy cocoa nibs. Very morish! RRP 4.59 for 200g
6. Cotswold Gold Infusions: These rape seed oils are brilliant for people who are into cooking. I got a gift pack for Nick which includes garlic, chilli and cumin flavoured oils and he loves them. You can buy online and there is also a big list of stockists here.
7. Malibu Snowcoco: This is the perfect drink for Malibu lovers with little flakes of coconut floating around which make the bottle look like a snow globe! You can also get some wintery cocktails from the Facebook page. RRP £14.75
On Tuesday, I handed in my final year project report and today, the poster and website to go with it! After months of work it feels weird that it’s all done (and scary, it’s worth quite a lot of my degree!). You’d think I’d be out celebrating but no, I’ve got more coursework due in tomorrow! I’ve literally had no time recently to buy/use/review anything exciting but a few weeks ago I was sent a load of products from Rachel’s to try out, so even if I didn’t have time to shop, I did have time to eat!
There was way too much for me to eat on my own so the girls I live with helped me out and we’re all in agreement, we love Rachel’s! I’m not going to review each product separately as there’s only so much you can say about yogurt but we were really surprised by lots of the flavours. I wasn’t at all sure about the coconut yogurts but they actually have a perfect balance of coconut and fruit so are really tasty. The breakfast yogurts are good for mornings when you are in a rush and they are also quite filling because of the granola.
The big tubs are a good size for sharing but seeing as we had so much, and I had a cake craving, I decided to attempt to make yogurt cupcakes. They turned out quite well but I haven’t got any photos because I didn’t ice them (no time!) so they didn’t look like anything special. I used the Apple and Elderflower yogurt which gave the cakes a sweet, delicate flavour. I reckon they are also much better for you than normal cake as there is hardly any butter and the yogurt is low fat. You could use any of the yogurt flavours (I might try some blackcurrant ones with the leftover blackcurrant yogurt next, I love the colour!) and some of them are fat free so would be even healthier! Here’s the recipe in case you want to try them….
- 250g self raising flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 225ml Rachel’s Apple and Elderflower Yoghurt
- 50 g butter
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix the butter and sugar to a breadcrumb consistency. Beat in the yogurt. Then fold in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Split into cupcake cases and bake for around 15 minutes. (I ended up with loads of cakes – 11 normal sized ones and about 12 mini ones).
Rachel’s products are all made using locally sourced organic ingredients and are available in supermarkets throughout the country.
We don’t usually do much for Valentine’s Day other than cook a nice meal – the past few years that hasn’t even been on Valentine’s Day itself what with us being in uni in different places! Here are a few things I’ve found which would be perfect for Valentine’s Day……
1. Guylian chocolates – how can you not love these!
2. Fudges hampers. There are a few different sizes with different things inside. I’ve tried some of the crackers and biscuits before and they are really good so I think these would be a great idea for foodies.
3. The Mercers Chocolate Sauce & Salted Caramel Sauce. These taste amazing and are just £2 each!
4. Firefly Love Potion – makes a change from the usual Valentine’s Day champagne! This tastes nice on its own but can also be mixed for cocktails.
5. Olives et Al’s Chilli Harissa. This is nice and garlicky and tastes really good with lamb.
6. Jamie Oliver’s chocolate bars. I like the packaging and they’re fair trade as well.
I know there are people who don’t like talking about Christmas until December, let alone buying presents before then. I’m not one of those people – I love Christmas!!! If I see a good Christmas present for someone, I’ll buy it no matter what time of year it is and I properly start looking for presents around September/October time.
I’ve come across these tubes from Swizzels Matlow which I think are perfect little gifts so I thought I’d share them with you. They are just like the tubes you see everywhere around Christmas time which contain mini chocolate bars with one small difference – they contain sweets instead. You can get three different tubes, Drumsticks, Refreshers, Love Hearts. For just £1.49 for 120g you can’t really go wrong!
A few months ago I tried the new Choccy Munchy Seeds with Apricot and absolutely loved them so was happy to find out that there is another new flavour – Belgian Dark Chocolate with Chilli and Ginger.
The seeds are a really tasty snack. They fill you up much better than a bar of chocolate and there’s not as much guilt as they are also healthier! The chilli is not overpowering, it just gives the seeds a bit of heat. The ginger bits are lovely and sweet – my only complaint would be that there’s not enough of it!
Choccy Munchy Seeds are available in 50g bags or 200g tubs, either from the website or from Harvey Nichols foodhalls.
After Tuesdays post on the Christmas chocolate puddings, I’ve got into the Christmas spirit and have found another brilliant chocolate idea……
Has anyone heard of The Chocolate Moon? They are a company which deliver luxury chocolates straight to your door and the chocolates look amazing! The Chocolate Moon have come up with a fantastic Christmas gift – a YEARS SUPPLY OF CHOCOLATE!
Each box of chocolates is really well presented, looks luxurious and tastes scrumptious (well, I’ve only sampled one box but all of the chocolates look delicious so I’m sure they taste delicious too!). A box of chocolates is sent to the recipient monthly and you can choose the twelve boxes from a wide range of truffles and chocolates on the website.
The year of chocolates costs £99 but there is the option to send a box every two months for £55 or double the amount of chocolate for £149. I think this is a brilliant idea!