Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Godiva Chocolates launch A Conference of Chocolate at Hix Selfridges

It was an honour to be invited, on behalf of Fabric, along to the launch of the Godiva Challenge winning dessert by Heather Bennett at Hix Selfridges.

Yours truly, Heather, and Pip

Not only did I get to meet Heather again, chat to her about her experiences since winning the challenge, and mingle with other press people, I also got to TASTE the dessert itself.
A Conference of Chocolate

A combination of chocolate and almond crumb, pear sorbet, honey and chocolate mousse, caramelized poached Kent pears, and toasted nuts, all arranged professionally and most beautifully on the dish. It tasted divine. Just divine. I wanted to lick the plate. The seasonality of the pears, and the locally sourced honey mean that only a limited number per day can be freshly prepared, so it was no surprise that of all the desserts ordered and served at Hix that evening, half were Heather's dish and it sold out by 7.30pm! For a debut dessert, that is fantastic.The chefs at Hix have had Heather show them how to make and present her dessert, and on this, the launch evening, they didn't change anything! It was just as she envisioned.

If you want to taste a little piece of heaven (and perhaps sample a chocotini too - vodka martini, dry vermouth, and shaved Godiva chocolate sprinkles - and believe me, you should!) then get yourself there, before it's all gone!


A Conference of Chocolate will be served at Hix Selfridges for a limited time. If the demand is there, they may keep it on for longer...  so go and demand it!
Heather chooses her dessert from the Hix menu!
You can read Heather's own reflections on the evening here.

Photos by John Gough.

Monday, 28 April 2014

I'm a Celebrity Jungle Cake

My little boy wanted a Celebrity Jungle themed party this year for his 9th birthday, complete with bushtucker trials. Everything on this cake is actually edible, made from sugarpaste icing, with Nigella's chocolate cake inside, and the 'camouflage' inspired by Marisha. The critters spelled out his name and age...

The rest of the trials are a whole other blog post!

Jungle Cake
I'm A Celebrity Jungle Cake
Spider... centipede...
...spider... witchetty grub...
...ants... beetle...
... more ants... jungle foliage

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Eating in Marbella

Being a coastal town, the food in Marbella is, as you would expect, mosty seafood. But all types of cuisine can be found, from traditional Spanish tapas and paella to Italian, American and Asian. I adore Spanish food, (as you may have noticed!) and ate as much of it as possible, whilst my outlaws and kids stuck to what they know. My favourite dish on this trip was probably the alitas de pollo, and, as ever, tapas. And I learnt a new Spanish word, chiringuito: a small beach bar where they cook the fish right there on the beach - when I go back I will just do chiringuito-crawls all day!

Some of the chiringuitos on Marbella beachfront. Wish I'd known about these at the beginning of the week!

Swordfish at Kala Kalua Chiringuito
"This little chiringuito was one of the nearest to our apartment, and we weren't expecting much, as we were so tired from travelling on our first evening. However, we were seated, outside, on the beach, straight away, and the service throughout was friendly and very accomodating. The kids only wanted ice cream, and that was no problem as we adults all ordered main courses. The steaks were massive! The swordfish was cooked and presented very nicely with just enough sides of baby potatoes and vegetables. The dessert menu was a little disappointing, none of it was fresh, it seemed to be all frozen packaged desserts. Absolutely gorgeous location though - not obvious from the promenade!"

Buddies Bar, cooking paella outdoors, with lots of tapas on offer.
"We just stopped in for a quick drink on the way to the supermarket, but it was so lovely in the garden we stayed for lunch. Although the waiter couldn't speak English (I was glad to be able to practice a little Spanish) he was very able to communicate, and friendly. The barbeque smelt delicious and there were several Spanish families enjoyed the tapas and grilled fish. We just had the usual tourist food - burgers, chips and oh, more chips, but it was well cooked and presented nicely. I would recommend for food and afternoon drinks."

The starters - garlic focaccia and salmon fishcakes - at Fantasia were excellent, as was the calzone, and the service was great.
"We really enjoyed our meal at Fantasia. Although it wasn't near the beach or the sea, and we were the first to arrive, by the end of the evening, there was a buzzing atmosphere and there seemed to be a lot of locals and regulars, always a good sign. The service was exceptional, friendly and polite, and we were made to feel most welcome, with young children, even though they don't cater for children - although the playground across the road was a good distraction! The kids were happy to share a pizza, and the fishcake starters were delicious. All the pizzas were cooked well and tasted great, I would even say they were too big! It was worth the price, as it felt like we were dining more formally, and in true Italian style. Definitely recommend."

La Creperie served only crépes, but don't worry, beer too!
"It was right about lunch time when we stopped for a pre-lunch snack, and La Creperie served a huge variety of crepes filled with savoury and sweet. We ordered sweet crepes, con nutella y platano y helado, and it was served in a friendly and polite manner. Well cooked and beautifully presented. Quite pricey for what it is, but as you eat you can people-watch, and gaze into the windows of Hermes and Dior, whilst Hummers and Lamborghinis cruise past..."

Orange trees outside our apartment.

One very disappointing lunch was at Alabardero.
Very very bad service. Food was all deep fried, apart from the paella. With nothing on the side...

"In the middle of our holiday, we were attracted to this restaurant by the bouncy castle in the garden - lunch and a few cool drinks while the kids entertained themselves - not so. We waited at least 10 minutes before being greeted, and even then, I had to ask for a table. The waitress asked us how many, and did we have a reservation, then went back to serving paella and completely ignored us for another 5-10 minutes. The manager finally greeted and seated us, he was quite jolly and friendly, to be fair, but we had to waaaait for our order to be taken. Then waaaaait for our drinks to arrive. At each point a different waiter served us, so asking one for fresh napkins, resulted in him never been seen again. The drinks waiter spilled apple juice all over my mother-in-law. A different waiter took our food order (eventually) and when asked if they had a kid's menu, just grunted 'no'. How could we be so silly? Then he seemed to realise how rude he was being, and informed us that the dishes with stars were suitable for children. 
The food arrived after several years, though not all together, so some of us were eating, whilst others were kept waiting. None of the food came with anything on the side, so the prices were ridiculous, £10 for a small basket of Palomitas de pollo - chicken 'nuggets'. My son had scoffed them all before the ketchup he asked for arrived. The only remotely good thing about this restaurant was the paella, which was flavoursome but even so, slightly undercooked.
Absolutely dreadful service. Rude, hurried (they weren't that busy, the lunch rush was clearly over) and unfriendly. Then surprised exclamations when we said, no, actually everything was not alright... AVOID!"

Sangria de Cava, Tapas and kids' free dessert at Casa Eladio.

"After wandering round Plaza de los Naranjas, and avoiding one chap trying to persuade us to eat indoors on a beautifully sunny lunchtime, we discovered this little gem. They offer a lunchtime selection of 4 tapas for only 7 Eur, and 6 tapas for only 9 Eur! I was able to order practically everything on the menu! It was all good - I'm not a big fan of squid, but the little tentacles were crunchy and salty, and the Iberico croquettes were deliciously salty. The goat's cheese puffs were creamy and just the right texture. Washed down with some Sangria de Cava, I think this was one of my favourite restaurants in Marbella town. Even got the oldies finally to try out tapas!"

Lunch at Piucaro, overlooking the sea at Puerto Banús... Alitas de pollo - so good the kids scoffed most of mine!
"Located directly overlooking the sea, along the front promenade before you reach the Puerto Banús marina itself, this was a lunchtime find. It felt a little formal to begin with, but once we had a nice cool beer it was very relaxing and suitable for people-watching. A good range of touristy and local dishes, my alitas de pollo (chicken wings) were particularly good - enjoyed by the kids too. The battered fish was well recommended for the batter, and the hamburgers on flatbread were well cooked and nicely presented. Slightly on the pricey side, but for the location, very good value. And friendly, helpful service too."

La Pesquera, at the far end of the promenade, towards Estepona, good for breakfast, but get there before noon!
"On our first morning, pre-supermarket trip, all we wanted was a spot of breakfast. Being completely unfamiliar with the area, we wandered FOREVER along the promenade towards Estepona, passing all manner of beach bar, none of which were open til 12 noon. Finally we came to Estepona market (Sundays) and this restaurant, which was serving breakfast, only til noon - we were just in the nick of time! We all ordered Iberico janon and huevos, with chips - well it was practically lunchtime. Good coffees too. Perhaps we were exceptionally ravenous, but it all tasted great. The lunch and dinner menus looked appetizing - it was mainly fish, as you would expect. A lovely place for a long sunny day to sit and watch the sea..."

All this eating made me at least five pounds heavier. Everyone in Marbella runs along the promenade, all the time. Or cycles. In proper gear. Sometimes with dogs. And work out on the outdoor gym equipment dotted all along the front. So they can eat... 

All reviews from TripAdvisor written by me.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Homemade Salted Caramels Recipe

 I've wanted to have a go at making my own chocolates for a while (especially after the Godiva Challenge!) and salted caramel is one of my favourite flavours. So using some of the callets I got from Godiva, and a mould I got free with Something Sweet magazine, I attempted my first ever homemade salted caramels...

I took the five that actually came out of the mould without being squished along to a girlie night at a friend's house and they were received with moans of delight, and much disappointment at only having one each!

Making them was of course trial and error, but I eventually got the hang of actually using the moulds without breaking the chocolates when taking them out, and of course the tempering is an acquired skill, but for a first attempt, I was more than pleased with the results.

Makes: 15 (depending on your mould)

Prep time: 3 hours minimum (including setting time) 


200 g dark chocolate pearls/callets (I used Godiva 70% cocoa)
150 g Demerara sugar
3 tbsp cold water
75 g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp rock or sea salt
4 tbsp double cream


Bain-Marie (or microwave)
Silicone chocolate cup mould
Flat paintbrush


Temper your chocolate, either by heating in a microwave for 1 minute, stirring, then giving it another 30 seconds - don't allow it to melt completely, and then stir the remaining unmelted pieces until it is all smooth. Or use a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water to melt 75% of the chocolate, and then remove from the heat and stir in the remaining. Ideally the temperature should be about 32 degrees to work with - if you have a sugar thermometer you can check this. Otherwise, like me, just wing it!

Use a small spoon to transfer enough chocolate to the mould to cover the bottom of each well. Then using your flat paintbrush, paint the chocolate up the sides. I found that a nice thick base and reasonably thin sides worked well. A thin bottom not so good. Allow the chocolate in the mould to set in the fridge, this could take up to an hour, depending on the thickness.

To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Bring to the boil, and allow it to boil for a few minutes, without stirring, until it turns a golden caramel colour. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Carefully stir in the butter and some of the salt until the butter has melted.

Next, whisk in the double cream gradually until you get a glossy smooth caramel.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the salt, then leave to cool completely.

Once the chocolate has set, and the caramel has cooled, spoon the caramel into the chocolate cups, but not to the top, leave a few millimetres at the top (this will prevent a LOT of spillage!!). Let it settle and then use some more melted tempered chocolate to seal the top - use a piping bag if you would like a really clean cut top, or you can use a spoon for a nice rustic look. Either way, try to 'seal' the top around the edges so you don't get leakage of caramel which you will then have to lick off your fingers...

Allow to set again in the fridge, and when it is solid, gently push them out of the mould. Decorate with some more rock salt if you wish.

And eat... preferably with some Prosecco...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

One Direction Birthday Cake

A chocolate cake for a gorgeous little girl, turning seven, who LOVES One Direction.

one direction

 Chocolate cake recipe by Annie Bell.
Sugarpaste icing from Decorative Supplies Enfield.
1D logo adapted from official One Direction TM.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Beef and Feta Galette Recipe

A galette is a type of freeform pasty or pie. This is a great recipe for using up leftover ingredients from my Vegetarian Dinner Party. It was relatively quick, easy, and served four of us, pre-pub! 

The pastry is surprisingly simple for a time when you haven't got any ready-to-roll handy, and seems healthier by using olive oil instead of butter. I would probably blind-bake it next time though, to make sure it was cooked through thoroughly, although this may detract from the lovely shaping. 
A lovely Greek-inspired rustic looking dish!

Beef and Feta Galette

Serves: 4

Prep: ~1 hour (including chilling the pastry)

Cook: ~1 hour 15 mins


For the Pastry:
1 cup (~130 g) Flour
1/4 cup (~55 ml) Olive oil
1/4 cup (~60 ml) Water
pinch of salt

For the Filling:
500g minced beef
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
100g feta cheese, roughly chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp stuffed olives, sliced
100 ml double cream
1 egg white


To make the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the olive oil and mix it until it becomes crumbly. Add in the water and mix until it becomes a soft dough. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

For the topping, heat the oil in a pan to moderate and stir fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the mince and oregano and cook for 10-15 minutes until browned all over and even slightly crispy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Heat the oven to 180 C. 

Roll out your pastry to about 30 cm round. Lightly grease a 25 cm tin and lay the pastry inside letting it flop over the sides, but don't press it in. You can bake the pastry for about 15 minutes here if you like, to ensure it's cooked through - cover in baking paper and ceramic beans. It will mean it won't fold over your topping so well later though, so shape it nicely now. Crumble the feta over the pastry base (cooked, or not), then smooth over the beef mixture and sprinkle with the sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Fold the (non-cooked) pasty over the edges now in a rustic, uneven, carefree manner. If you've pre-cooked it, it will stick up in a jaunty fashion, which is also lovely!

Finally beat together the cream and egg white and pour it over the filling. 

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Serve with green salad, and/or crusty bread. And plenty of red wine...