Saturday, 29 October 2016

An autumnal bread-making workshop at the Jamie Oliver Cookery School, London

I love bread. Who doesn't love bread? Everyone loves bread.

And yet, despite this fact, it's not something I've ever made. I don't tend to buy it much either. But that's not to say I don't demolish a bread basket when given the opportunity.

As you may know, I bake a lot of cakes. Love me some cake-baking.

But bread? Well I've always thought it was difficult and just a bit of a faff what with all that proving and whatnot.

So when I was invited along by Curry's PC World and Hotpoint to the Jamie Oliver Cookery School for an autumnal bread-baking masterclass with a few fellow bloggers, I was mad keen to go along and find out just what exactly is involved when creating bready delights.
It was a beautiful autumn day when I arrived at the cookery school - sunny but with a crispness in the air - which was just perfect for what we were going to be making: crusty white rolls, focaccia and a walnut and caramelised onion wholemeal loaf. YUMMMMM!

The cookery school is delightful - it's bright and beautifully decorated, with all the kitchen equipment of your dreams.
After tea, coffee, biscuits and fruit upon arrival (well, you've gotta fuel up for all that baking, right?), we donned our aprons and hit the kitchen, where the fabulous head chef Gabby was going to instruct us in how to become the next Paul Hollywood.

First up: crusty white bread rolls.
After an expert demonstration, it was our turn, and we were encouraged to experiment with different shapes. I decided to try plaited loaves and ended up making two extremely unequal ones. Oh well.
Glazed and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds before baking, I think they turned out pretty nicely though.
So proud of my work. Domestic goddess. Who dis.

And it had all been incredibly quick, with just a little prove and a quick bake. Of course, it helps when all the ingredients are not only laid out but measured for you. Such luxury. Plus, the snazzy Hotpoint ovens meant everything baked perfectly evenly which as any baker will know, is not always the case.
Next up, focaccia. I always thought this must be incredibly complex to make, but it's so damn simple. Who knew? (Probably everyone who's ever made focaccia.)

We ground up some sea salt and rosemary to go on top...
Spread it all over the dough and that was pretty much it.

And alongside the focaccia we baked our third creation: wholemeal bread filled with walnuts and caramelised onion. Oh yes.

We had to knead our dough for a full ten minutes and then let it prove, but after that it was just a case of stretching it out, covering it with caramelised onions and walnuts, rolling it up and finishing with an egg wash and pumpkin seeds. Simples!
I was rather pleased with how these came out too.

Hard work done, it was time to sit down with a glass of prosecco and enjoy the fruits of our labours. 
I don't wanna brag, but everything was delicious, and the bread went down a treat with the best fondue I've ever had and a bowlful of classic pumpkin soup (recipes here!)
I had had so much fun meeting like-minded people, learning more about bread-making and eating delicious things. How lucky am I to get opportunities such as this? 

And I'm definitely feeling inspired to do more bread-baking in future too. Are you?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Bottomless bellini brunch at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell, London

My basic love for Prosecco is no secret. But d'you know what I love even more? Bellinis. They're just so damn tasty and dangerously quaffable.

I'd known about the bottomless bellini brunch at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings for aaaaages and had been desperate to go since I first heard about it. So when my colleague and friend Rachel (yes, another one), told me she'd been, I made her tell me all about it over lunch one day. She'd loved it, so we decided we simply must get the gang together and go.

And by the end of our lunch break, the booking was made, huzzah! I do love an impulse decision. Granted, our reservation was for about two months' time, but hey, we're busy people and B&H Buildings is so popular you really do have to book far in advance.

So it was with great excitement that I made my way up to North London for a long-awaited bellini-fuelled brunch.
B&H Buildings is a beautifully bright and airy space and the weekend vibe was wonderfully relaxed yet stylish.

We took our seats and got to perusing the rather extensive menu - there's definitely something for everyone.
Interestingly, it turns out if you want bottomless bellinis, you have to order something more substantial than granola and fruit, porridge or crumpets. Probably wise, really...

Order placed, bellinis ahoy!
For £18, you get as many bellinis as you can drink in 90 minutes. And considering one bellini is £9, have more than a couple and you're basically making money. That's how these things work, right? (Oh but please do drink responsibly, yeah? #stayclassy)
The staff are pretty good at replacing empty flutes with fresh bellinis, and we never had to wait long for a new one, despite how busy the restaurant was.

Probably in an attempt to make sure no one had drunk too much on an empty stomach, our food arrived incredibly quickly. For me, drop scones (aka pancakes) with caramelised banana and mixed nuts.
It was perfection. Literally faultless.
The pancakes were fluffy, there was ample banana and nuts, syrup was not lacking and the portion size was just right. Scrumptious. Plus, just £7. SEVEN POUNDS! Barg.

The other gals went to town too...
Absolute brunch goals.

Brunches, brownies and a few ridiculous amount of bellinis down the line, we were served our final drinks (and informed thus, which was good), and asked to move over to the sofas to enjoy them so that our table could be cleared for the next group of hungry brunchers.
It was so lovely that we weren't rushed and could sit there chatting long after our flutes were dry and we'd moved on to the tap water.

I loved Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings and can't recommend it more. Would return.

Also, anyone else really want a bellini now?

Friday, 21 October 2016

Spider-web salted caramel millionaire's shortbread

For the quarter-final of the Telegraph Bake Off, the theme was biscuits.

How do you wow with biscuits? thought I. It was quite the challenge.

So in a bid to impress my colleagues in a biscuit-based (literally) fashion, I decided to make millionaires' shortbread.

And after a bit of Pinterest browsing for inspo, my mind was made up: individual spider-web salted caramel millionaire's shortbread it would be.
It's a serious business, the Telegraph Bake Off. Well I'm taking it seriously anyway. Impressing your colleagues with baked goods is the way to career success, right?

But I hadn't actually made millionaires' shortbread for years, and with neither time nor ingredients to spare, I couldn't afford a kitchen disaster.

Fortunately, no such disaster occurred and my salted caramel millionaires' shortbread have got me through to the semi-final, week!

(Aside: where does the apostrophe go? Is it the shortbread of just one millionaire? Or multiple? I need to know!)

There's a classic crumbly shortbread base, a generous layer of velvety smooth salted caramel, and smooth chocolate to top it all off, with the sea salt stopping everything from being too sickly.
I must say, I actually impressed myself with these.

The design looks tricky but it's actually super simple - perfect for Halloween, no?
I used Green & Black's chocolate because it's fantastic and I'm sort of in love with the milk chocolate sea salt bar, but you could also use another milk choc and add a pinch of sea salt. Oh, and the G&B white chocolate is also fabulous because it's vanilla-y too.

Anyway, make these, have fun, enjoy them, love them.

And wish me luck for the semi-final!

This recipe makes 12.


90g unsalted butter at room temp
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour

90g light brown muscovado sugar
90g salted butter
320g condensed milk
a generous pinch of sea salt

200g sea salt milk chocolate (or standard milk chocolate and add sea salt)
75g white chocolate


1. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases and heat the oven to 180C.

2. First make the shortbread: cream together the butter and sugar with a handheld electric whisk until smooth and light. Fold in the flour and mix together with your hands until a crumbly dough forms. Divide equally between the paper cases and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake in the oven for 12-13 minutes before removing to cool - leave in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

4. Once the shortbread is cool, make the caramel: in a non-stick pan gently melt together the condensed milk, butter, sugar and salt, stirring as you go. Once the butter and sugar has all melted, turn up the heat a touch to bring to a gentle boil. Stir continuously for 5-6 minutes until thickened.
5. Whilst still hot, dollop a generous spoonful of the caramel on to each shortbread base, dividing it equally between them - it should be runny enough to level out by itself - and add an extra sprinkle of sea salt to each. Leave the caramel to set and cool completely.
6. To make the chocolate topping, carefully melt both of the chocolates separately either in the microwave or in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Spoon the white chocolate into a piping bag (or a freezer bag if you're budget like me) and snip off the teensiest hole in the end.
7. Working with a couple at a time (so the chocolate doesn't set), cover each caramel shortbread with a generous spoonful of milk chocolate. Carefully pipe three consecutive rings of white chocolate on top, then use a toothpick or a skewer to drag lines from the centre to the edges, wiping the end clean after each line, thus creating the spiderweb effect. Complete for all shortbreads.

8. Leave to set and you're done! If you're in a particularly warm clime, you may need to pop your shortbreads in the fridge, but they're much better kept at room temperature. Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A marvellous vegetarian dinner at The Gate, Islington

In recent years, vegetarian food has had something of a renaissance. No longer associated with sad tofu or cardboardy meat substitutes, tons of tasty dishes where veg is the star of the show have been appearing on restaurant menus, foodie blogs and in dedicated recipe books.

And what with a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants having opened in London over the past few years, I was most intrigued when The Gate was brought to my attention recently, as I'd never heard of it.

With two locations - Hammersmith and Islington - The Gate was established back in 1989, and yet it seems to be relatively under-the-radar when it comes to London's healthy foodie scene. 

Think of veggie restaurants in the capital and Mildred's comes to my mind initially (totally go if you haven't already). But after my visit to The Gate last week, I can't for the life of me understand why it's less well-known.

As it was Thursday evening (or Thursyay, amiright?) and my dinner date Jenny and I hadn't seen each other for weeks, we kicked things off with prosecco. (Lol as if we wouldn't have done that regardless of the day of the week or if we'd seen each other the day before).
The restaurant is big but it was absolutely packed with a mixed crowd of all ages. The interior is simple but stylish, and the candles on the tables created a lovely cosy atmosphere. I'm all about those cosy autumn evenings.
People who think you can't make interesting, delicious meals without meat really need to go to The Gate - the menu is simply fantastic. The dishes are so creative and everything we ate burst with flavour.

I thought the starter menu was particularly enticing and genuinely wanted to eat everything, so I was thrilled to find the option of a mezze platter for two to share.
It was beautifully-presented and quite possibly the stand-out dish of the night.

We had miso-glazed aubergine, three-onion tart, fabulous red onion chutney with crostini...
I have never tasted aubergine as delicious as this - it was so soft and almost buttery in texture, and simultaneously sweet and savoury. Sensational.

Then there was three lentil pate terrine, couscous and feta fritters, and grilled halloumi in Indian spices.
Dat halloum tho. With chickpeas. So good. Halloumi 4 lyf.

I really liked the texture of the couscous fritters and the (I wanna say) pumpkin puree they came with, but alas there was some coriander in there which as we all know is a deal-breaker for me.

And the terrine was really interesting, unlike anything I've ever had before, although Jenny found one section a bit too olive-y.

We moved on to a carafe of Sauv (love a carafe and love that there was the option - it was jut the right amount of wine) and were soon served our once again beautifully-presented mains.
For me, the butternut rotolo:
The rotolo consisted of layered potatoes stuffed with butternut squash, italian sundried tomato and basil, and it was served with with celeriac puree, apple and celery salad, vegetable crisps and creamy sorrel sauce.

My goodness, it was fantastic. There were so many big flavours and textures going on that all married together so well: smooth celeriac puree, crunchy crisps, soft butternut squash and crisp apple. It was wonderful.

Jenny had the aubergine teriyaki:
Glazed and grilled teriyaki aubergine, stuffed with horseradish, coriander pesto, roasted pepper, shiitake and ginger duxelles, on top of a crispy noodle salad with peppers, flat beans and carrots, and mango and coriander salsa.

It was very good. The portion was big and there was a lot of aubergine, but veggies are good for you so yay for lots!

And just to make 100% sure we ticked off our five-a-day, Jen and I shared a couple of sides: roasted spiced sweet potato wedges with garlic and chive sour cream...
Apols for the blurry picture but oh my daaaaaayz these were so good. Again, a sizeable portion, but it was just cooked to perfection. If I could use the 'OK hand' emoji in a blog post, I totally would to describe these.

And then cauliflower with smoked paprika tahini, pinenuts and pomegranate.
Not mind-glowingly delicious but certainly enjoyable - great flavour combo again. I'd never considered adding paprika to tahini but it's definitely something I'm going to recreate.

And because man cannot live on vegetables alone, Jenny and I figured we definitely had room for a spot of pudding. And boy, is the menu good.

For Jen, the white chocolate sphere...
Slightly disappointingly, the sauce wasn't quite hot enough to create the dramatic scene for which we'd been hoping, but it did collapse the white chocolate shell to reveal the chocolate mousse and caramel inside.

Naturally, I had a mouthful (or four), and unsurprisingly, it was utterly scrumptious. So pretty too!

And because I was so intrigued by the prospect, I chose the vegan cheesecake.
With its nutty cashew base, creamy filling (apparently made from chickpeas *gasp*) and spiced cranberry topping, I loved it.
Maybe it was the cranberries, but something about the cheesecake tasted festive to me, and hey, I enjoyed that immensely.

In fact, I'd enjoyed the whole evening and everything about The Gate. It's creative, high-quality, beautiful-presented and utterly delicious vegetarian fare, proving that you absolutely don't need meat for a satisfying meal.

I'll definitely be back!

Jenny and I were guests at The Gate but all opinions are honest, promise. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Handbags and Cupcakes. All rights reserved.