Blackcurrant cupcakes

My Mum bought a punnet of blackcurrants the other day, simply because they were reduced. Seeing as I’m the only person at home who does things with fruit other than washing, peeling and chopping, it was my job to do something with them.

So I made cupcakes. I rarely make cupcakes. I always go for muffins instead. It probably has something to do with the way I’m not keen on large amounts of icing. But if I wanted my boyfriend to love me more, making more cupcakes, ideally with an equal ratio of cake to buttercream, would be a good plan. Continue reading

Bully’s Restaurant Cardiff – Review

Although I’ve been living in Cardiff for the last three years, it has taken until now, along withย  an entire evening spent scouring restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, to discover that Cardiff is a little limited when it comes to good food venues. But after extensive (and exhausting) research, along with a recommendation from a friend, we settled on Bully’s in Canton. A glance over the menu on-line had me pretty excited, especially for the starters, which all sounded very intriguing, with food combinations and ingredients I’d never even heard of before. Mum went for the kohlrabi, goats cheese and marinated anchovy carpaccio with dijon mustard emulsion. After a sneaky taste (or two) I can say that goats cheese and anchovy (good ones mind, not those dried out super salty ones you find on pizzas) is a revelation. I will have to make this pairing myself in future, because it really works, in a fresh, creamy, salty way. The thin, crisp slithers of mild tasting kohlrabi make the perfect base ingredient to carry the punchy flavours.

The boyfriend and I went for the smoked squid, mango, root ginger and okahijiki salad (which sounds very cool, and after a little internet research I haveย  discovered is also known as land seaweed, which sounds a little less cool). For me it was a very tough decision between this and the pan fried beetroot gnocchi (because I have a strong desire to work out my opinions on gnocchi and because I wanted to be a part of the current beetroot-eatingย  trend). The squid dish was good, but (and this is a fairly big but) more squid please! I think I could have eaten my squid, and my boyfriend’s squid and still felt a little squid deprived. Now I know it is a ‘starter’ and it is supposed to be ‘small’, but there is small and there is minuscule, I’d say this was more minuscule. At least one squid ring to accompany my squid tentacles would have been very much appreciated. The dish itself was lovely though, the sweet, smoky dressing contrasting nicely with the fruity mango.

I tried taking photos, but it was very dark and I don’t like using flash in restaurants so they’ve not come out great.

smoked squid, mango, root ginger and okahijiki salad

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A labour of love – tomato tartlets tatin

As I scooped the seeds out of two punnets of cherry tomatoes I had to ask myself why. Why did I decide to do this? Surely life is just too short!

But I persevered, hoping that all this arduous, fiddly cherry tomato de-seeding would be worth it.

And was it?

Heck yes! More than worth it. A million times worth it. Because the little tomato tartlets I ended up with were quite possibly the most beautiful pastry-based creations I have ever eaten. I tried to savour mine, tried to eat slowly and make the pleasure last. I really did. But from the first mouthful in, I couldn’t help myself. The flavours were so intense – of the bursting in your mouth kind- so sweet and moreish, the crisp, buttery pastry base the perfect foil to the juicy, just verging on sticky tomatoes and caramelized red onion. This was heaven, in pastry form. And I was so excited to have stumbled upon it that I snaffled it all up greedily.

Then regretted it, when my encounter with food heaven was over in a flash. Continue reading

Ashburton Cookery School – the final week

With my evenings full of planning for ‘mystery box day’ and revising for the end of course exam (also why I failed to keep posting daily) this week absolutely flew by. On Tuesdayย  we had a healthy eating expert come in to teach us about the health benefits of things like raw food and food combining and I was really surprised at how interesting I found it all and how inspired the day made me to experiment with health foods.

We started off making a green (or rather, verging on green) smoothie, more of a half-way house between your everyday fruit smoothie and your full blown green smoothie.The one we made was mostly fruit; apples, oranges and raspberries, with the green addition of chard (which should have been kale but there was none available). I almost want to say I preferred this over normal smoothies. It didn’t taste at all like cabbage, but the fruit was more mellow and less intensely sweet than in a pure fruit smoothie. I’m keen to try a ‘shrek smoothie’ now, a concoction of tropical fruits and spinach that supposedly comes out shrek green. (Looks like a decent blender may have made it on to my list of new equipment I want for the kitchen, alongside the knife set, ice cream maker, pasta machine, mini tart cases…) To go with our smoothie we made a raw porridge (oat groats – raw, unprocessed oats, that are still alive and full of active enzymes – soaked for about 24 hours in water, then mixed with apple juice, chopped apple and berries. I’m a bircher muesli fan, so this held instant appeal with me, only it had a fair amount more chew, providing us with an ideal opportunity to learn how to chew properly (at least thirty times!). This was something I prove not to be very good at.

Raw porridge and a greeny-brown green smoothie

Over the day we made a range of meals using healthy cooking methods including poached salmon with basil pesto and steamed chicken roulade stuffed with roasted pepper, olive and sun dried tomato, served with a red pepper and chickpea sauce and steamed vegetables. These were both lovely, fresh tasting dishes and very welcomed after three weeks of rich and creamy meals. Continue reading

Ashburton Cookery School Day 16

The beginning of the final week. I can’t believe how fast the course has gone and really wish it could go on a little longer!

It was a funny sort of day today as we spent the afternoon revising theory for Friday’s exam, which I’m feeling slightly stressed about. Less stressed than I am about Wednesday’s ‘mystery box’ day though, when I will have to cook four courses from a selection of as yet unknown ingredients. It’s supposed to be ‘fun’, and I’m trying to look at it like that, but I think I’m lacking a little confidence in my abilities and feeling pretty anxious that what I cook will end up being a disaster!

We got a little practice for Wednesday today with the ‘mystery fish’ lunch we had to prepare. The mystery fish turned out to be mullet, and we were given a selection of ingredients: fennel, chilli, garlic, spring onions, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and capers, to pull a meal together with. I decided on cooking my fish en papillote (because frying fish scares me…I blame my mother, who has somehow managed to ingrain in my subconscious that frying fish is very difficult and likely to end up going wrong). I added, finely sliced fennel, a little garlic, and lemon slices to my parcel along with the fish and made a salsa out of the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, chilli, spring onions and some parsley. I think it turned out ok.

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