I’ve got my Anorak on, have you?

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I know, I know the blog has been severely neglected over the past couple of months and my only excuse is that I’ve been extremely busy with weddings, family dos, doggy-sitting and work.

Truth be told, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately and as I’ve got to do so much writing in my day job sometimes I don’t have the energy to come home and write even more. I promise I’ll be better though.

To celebrate a long, healthy working week I decided to treat myself by spending some of my payday money on some nice beers I haven’t tried before. I’ve found a new beer shop down the road from my flat that has a great selection of yummy-looking beers.

I was in a hoppy mood so I picked a couple of my favourite hoppy beers and a couple I hadn’t tried before. Anorak, one of the beers I chose, promises to be a thirst quenching summer wheat beer, naturally cloudy and was exactly what I was after on that particularly stuffy and humid day.

Well what can I say about Anorak? It was everything I expected in a good way, and had a lovely full palate with a mouthful of citrus, tangerine and grassy goodness. It also had some lovely notes of wheat and yeast without feeling too heavy. The best thing about Anorak is the mix of juicy flavours combined with a gorgeous clean, crisp finish. This beer was so tasty that boyfriend even had a sip and he’s not a fan of hoppy beers at all. Anorak actually tasted slightly lager like, fizzy and refreshing.

Whilst I was supping on my tasty beer I had a little look at the label and discovered that Anorak is part of the Natural Selection Brewing project. The project has been set up by some Heriot-Watt MSc students at the International Centre of Brewing and Distilling. The project is designed for the students to produce, brand and market a beer that will ultimately be sold in and around Edinburgh. How cool is that!?

Anorak was produced at Stewarts Brewery and launched in July at the Stockbridge Tap. They also released a one off cask of ‘snozberry’ Anorak, don’t ask me what it would taste like but the Anorak guys assure us that:

This cask has been packed full of fresh snozberries which Willy Wonka has assured us will complement the refreshing characteristics of Anorak with a delicious fruity flavour and aroma, never before seen in a Scottish beer. Anorak website

The beer is made using several different hops and is dry-hopped to produce and extra hoppy beer (wow that’s a lot of hops in one sentance). You’ve got to love it, a tasty wheat beer made by beer geeks and produced in my own home, Edinburgh. Very impressed with this beer, well done guys!

Anybody else tried Anorak, what did you think? If you’ve got any recommendations for nice hoppy beers I might not have tried please let me know!

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Treat Discovery | Burgh Bakes

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The Marshmallow Lady is popping up here there and everywhere at the moment and I’ve finally got my hands on some of her marshallow-y goodness. Burgh Bakes is based in Edinburgh and make homemade gourmet marshmallows in a variety of lovely flavours and styles. They boast no additives, preservatives or unnatural colourings and are naturally low in fat, there are endless amounts of excuses to eat these lovely morsels of sweetness.

I heard of Burgh Bakes first after learning about the new guerilla dining pop up restaurant experience, Burgher Burger which matches different Innis and Gunn beers with a 3 course meal. The Marshmallow Lady had created Innis and Gunn marshmallows which were served at one of the events.

I then saw that she was opening up a shop 5 minutes walk down the road from where I live (I know, dangerous). The shop is going to stock her range of marshmallows but is also going to sell lovely vintage milkshakes in a range of flavours and a variety of other cute cafe products. The shop is definitely something to be excited about!

Then yesterday I was wondering around the Stockbridge Market and came across the lovely Marshmallow Lady’s stall! We had a wee chat and I had a couple of tasters of the various marshmallow flavours. I had a taste of the key lime pie marshmallow which was really interesting as it had a biscuit base which is so unusually for a marshmallow. I also tasted her lemon meringue marshmallows which were lovely and light, exactly like meringue actually!

She said said “Ooo have you tried the beer marshmallows?”. So I had a taste of the beer marshmallows and golly gosh, they are tasty. They are made using the Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Beer so are lovely and sweet with a slight spiciness. They are buttery and fluffy in texture and have a lovely ‘squidge’ to them. Despite having such a heavy ingredients such as beer in them they are light and airy. It is very difficult not to munch the whole bag down and would probably go very well with a nice cold beer.

I’d definitely recommend checking out her online shop or stopping by her stall or shop if you’re in the area. I’m thinking that these marshmallows would be a fantastic wedding favour or a lovely birthday or anniversary gift. Most of her collection are gluten, dairy or fat free so are great for picky eaters too. I can’t wait for the shop to open to treat myself some more and explore her expanding range.

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 5 of 12: Heritage Twirly Bread

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This bread-making business is getting kind of addictive, I enjoyed the breakfast rolls from April so much that I made them a further 2 times in May, but that doesn’t count so I also made a new kind of bread. This new awesome organic deli/cafe/shop opened up 2 minutes from my flat last month, I know – dangerous. Earthy has a really cool range of freshly baked breads and a huge variety of flours, enough variety to last me the rest of the year!

They have sour-dough flour, ciabatta flour, whole-meal flour, white flour and many, many more. I decided to go with Organic Heritage Wholegrain Flour made by Doves Farm. It is made from

a mixture of older wheat varieties obtained primarily from gene banks and now dominated by April Bearded, a popular 19th century variety and one of the first spring wheats ever grown in the UK. Dove Farm website

It is called heritage flour because when it is baked into bread it has the same consistency and taste as bread made hundreds of years ago, a dark wheaty artisan loaf. According to the website the bread is perfect for biscuits and cakes but alas I am making bread! Luckily the flour packaging had a lovely recipe for a loaf of heritage bread on the back. I followed the recipe instructions exactly, which called for a lot more airing of the dough before baking. I noticed that the dough was a lot more elasticated and pliable, this could mean that my kneading method is getting better or it could just be a characteristic of the flour.

As my experimentation with making rolls went pretty well last time I decided to play around with the shape of the bread again. As the heritage bread is very traditional I thought artisan-style twirls would work well. Now, I could have looked up how to make twirl shapes with bread but I decided to just go for it. This unfortunately resulted in awkward bumpy blobs of bread but never mind! Thankfully they still tasty nice.

It is recommended that only experienced bakers use this flour because it is very heavy and needs precise attention to detailing during the bread-making process, I’d agree that this is probably good advice. My bread was a little dense and moist so I ended up waiting for it to go a little stale and used it to make a bread crumb batter for home-made fish and chips.  On reflection I think this flour would be perfect for those that have a bread machine, or for professional bakers or for those looking to make artisan-style cakes and biscuits.

Nevertheless I’ve learnt some lessons and my bread crumb batter was extremely tasty, tasty enough to make this experiment worthwhile! 

Red Velvet | I love you

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Photo by Lisa Djan via Pinterest

Ahhh Red Velvet cupcakes, delicious, delectable and totally adorable. These chocolaty, buttery, moist cupcakes are perfect for weddings and other special occasions (or just for all day, any day). They are delicate and with a winning recipe they can make any afternoon tea a lot more interesting.  

I start to get a bit itchy if I haven’t baked anything in a while so I decided to make some cupcakes. I’ve found that when baking simple, uncomplicated recipes always provide the most satisfying and flavoursome results. Red Velvet cupcakes are a little more sophisticated than your standard vanilla cupcake but are still very simple in terms of baking. It is the presentation and decorating that gives them the edge and makes them stand above other cupcakes, all the other cupcakes (apart from rainbow cupcakes, they are just awesome).

Red velvet cupcakes are a classic afternoon tea accompaniment. They are red in colour yet chocolaty in taste and are covered with a gorgeous cream cheese frosting. I used the BBC GoodFood recipe as a reference because it was uncomplicated and recipes from this website always come with a good reputation and lots of user comments. I adapted the recipe to make less, here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 30ml red food colouring
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (good quality) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

I also used cupcake tins rather than muffin tins so that they were a little bit smaller (I like lots of frosting to cupcake ratio). You make this recipe like any other cupcake recipe except you’ll have an extra addition to the method; the best way to evenly distribute the chocolate flavouring and red colouring without ruining the texture of the cupcake is to make a paste with the cocoa powder and colouring. You can then add this mixture directly after beating in the eggs. Making the perfect frosting can definitely make or break this recipe too, here’s what you’ll need for the frosting:

  • 100g unsalted butter, not margarine
  • 200g cream cheese, mascarpone is by far the best
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The consistency of the frosting should be thick, thick enough to pop in a pipping bag and hold its shape when it’s piped onto the cupcakes. To avoid melting the frosting make sure the cupcakes have cooled after the oven for at least half an hour. I had a bit of fun and experimented with some silver spray-in-a-can food colouring, this was something everyone who ate them commented on, and it went down a treat with the guys at work!

These cupcakes are truly scrumptious and utterly easy to make. The addition of buttermilk in the recipe makes the cupcakes irresistibly moist and the chocolate flavour is unexpected and an added surprise with every bite. These are great if you want to make an impression with your baking, simple yet effective. The frosting is fluffy and works perfectly with the moist cupcake underneath, add a touch of cinnamon to the frosting if you want to spice it up a little. I didn’t add enough food colouring so mine were a little dull, it’d be a good idea to test one cupcake out beforehand to see the colour – I’ll do this next time.

These cupcakes go so well with a lovely cup of chai tea latte, be careful though as one Red Velvet cupcake is never enough (hence why I cut down my ingredient portions)!

Have you got any additions or twists on this popular classic recipe? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from all the fellow baking bloggers out there!

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 4 of 12: Breakfast Rolls

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Went a bit mental with the flour

To save some money here and there on lunches I decided to make some soup. Jamie Oliver’s tomato soup recipe is simple, easy and delicious! I made a huge batch of it, enough to last the whole week with some left over for the boyfriend. After a couple of days of soup without the accompaniment of bread I started to get a little bored and craved it a bit. To continue my money-saving streak I had a quick sift through my cupboards and decided I had everything I needed to make some bread. 

I got out my trusty bread recipe book that I bought a couple of months ago and had a look at recipes that might go with my soup. I decided on a simple bread recipe to go with my simple soup, lovely fluffy breakfast rolls or ‘baps’ as they are known in Scotland. They are really easy to make and went perfectly with the tomato soup. As always, I added a couple of things to the recipe to change it up a bit, here are my ingredients:

 

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 150g melted butter
  • 5 g dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp black pepper
  • bunch of basil leaves, chopped

I added the black pepper and basil to the recipe, mostly because my basil plant looked like it wanted to be used and I thought the black pepper would compliment the tomato soup. I was really stringent with the method this time. I left the dough to rise and re-rise for as long as possible and pre-heated the oven well in advance. The recipe suggested the rolls would take 20-25 minutes to cook but mine took 35 minutes, I think this is due to my rubbish oven rather than the recipe being inaccurate. I also had the oven turned up high for the first 10 minutes to crisp up the top.

The result? I was extremely happy with my bread rolls, they had the best texture out of any of the breads I’ve made so far this year. They were extremely fluffy, not dense at all. Having the oven up high for the first 10 minutes of cooking meant I had a lovely, golden, crusty tops to my baps. Another tip to perfect this is to sprinkle a bit of cold water on the dough when you first put it in the oven. I was really happy with my addition of basil and pepper, especially the pepper as it worked really well when you spread the bread with butter and dipped in the soup.

Breakfast Rolls with Black Pepper & Basil

I had a bread roll with my soup for the rest of the week and saved loads of money! This recipe proves that bread doesn’t have to be complicated to be perfect. This simple recipe was the best attempt at baking bread so far and I think my strictness with the method, rising times and oven temperature really made a difference.

What is your favourite kind of bread to serve with soup? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 3 of 12: Banana Bread

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Photo by Cindy Nelson via PinterestI’m a bit behind for March (sorry). I baked this bread at the end of March but haven’t got round to blogging about it yet. So basically, I had a pretty indulgent March, eating way to much bread and other naughty things. So I decided to cheat, just a little bit. Banana bread isn’t technically bread, although it has bread in the name, so ha I win. 

I decided to bake banana bread instead of a savoury loaf because it’s easier to share something sweet (or send the boyfriend off with it to football practice or work). I picked banana bread because I haven’t made it before, I like bananas and it seemed nice and simple to make. I checked out a couple of recipes online but decided on BBC Foods recipe as it had a bunch of good reviews, I added a couple of things to the recipe – just to make it my own. Here’s what I used:

  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbp vanilla extract (good quality)
  • handful of poppy seeds
  • 40ml buttermilk
  • 50ml stout (I used Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout)

The stout and poppy seeds were my own additions; I was enjoying the stout whilst I was cooking and it seemed like a good idea to substitute some of the buttermilk for some stout… The addition of poppy seeds was because, well I like poppy seeds. This recipe was really easy and fun to make and the uncooked mixture tasted almost as good as the finish article. There are a couple of key elements to making this recipe perfectly.

Firstly, make sure the oven is fully pre-heated before baking your bread, this will stop soggy or burnt bottoms which ultimately ruin any cake or bread. This recipe requires you to cream the butter and sugar; ensure there are no lumps before adding any other ingredients, the cream mixture should turn a very pale yellow colour. Then fold in the rest of the ingredients, making sure not to take all the air out of the mixture. It says to mash the bananas, I mashed 2 bananas and thinly sliced the rest to give the bread more texture. The recipe calls for it to be baked for about an hour, mine took a little bit longer but I think that’s because my oven is rubbish. The easiest way to check if it’s cooked is the most traditional way, stick a knife in it, if it comes out clean it should be cooked. The top of the bread should be firm and golden grown.

So how did it taste? This is a very naughty, moreish bread and is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of chai tea. The bread has a cake-like moistness to it and the banana, vanilla and caster sugar make it lovely and sweet. This means it doesn’t need to be served with anything on it at all. I tried a couple of slices with some toppings, one with butter and one with peanut butter – both were lovely and made me want more and more. The stout gave the banana bread a lovely rich, nutty flavour – I can’t imagine the banana bread without the addition of stout now. The poppy seeds gave the bread lots more texture, check your teeth after you’ve had a slice though.

The Kitchin: An Unforgettable Meal

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The KitchinIt has been my goal for some time now to visit a Michelin Star restaurant, not because I’m a food snob that wants to pay stupid amounts of money for a plate of food, but because I want to experience the service of a Michelin Star restaurant (as well as the food). I was curious to see if I would feel awkward, out of place and out of my depth. I finally got the opportunity to visit one when my boyfriend got himself a new fantastic job, a reason to celebrate. 

I’m pretty blessed living in Edinburgh which is absolutely any foodies dream, there are independent cafes and restaurants on every corner and you can pretty much get any cuisine your heart desires. We decided we’d visit The Kitchin as he is a local Edinburgh boy, born and bred, not to mention that we’re constantly hearing incredible things about this restaurant. Weekends were booked up until June but they had a table available during the week so we went with that.

Tom Kitchin is bit of a celebrity chef now after a couple of appearances on Masterchef so we weren’t quite sure if he’d actually be there. After a couple of tweets on the day expressing our excitement for our first visit to the restaurant he replied saying ‘Looking forward to seeing you guys tonight’, so we guessed he would be there!

Gav put on a suit and I (reluctantly) put on some high heels and we jumped in a taxi to the restaurant. We’d already decided that we would go with the tasting menu, basically so we could try as many different things as possible – it’s not like we go to these kind of places every day! We got the wine tasting menu alongside, I know – ambitious on a school night.

I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail about each dish but can I just say, The Kitchin is a truely incredible experience. From the minute you walk through the door you are met by a number of people ready and happy to cater to your every need. We were so happy we got the wine tasting menu because it opened our eyes to some incredible wines we didn’t even know existed. This was particularly eye opening for Gav who isn’t much of a fan of white wine but was shocked at how beautiful their choice of wine was.

So, the food. The tasting menu was a whopping seven courses long including an amuse bouche, pre-starter, starter, middle course (take a breath), fish course, meat course and dessert. There were a couple of dishes that really stood out for me. Tom Kitchin’s signiture dish Pig’s Head & Langoustine was on the tasting menu, I’d heard of this one. This was absolutely stunning, the pig’s head tasted like pulled pork but ten times richer and the ear salad had the most delicious dressing, this was a favourite of Gavin’s too. Then there was the Razor Clams starter: razor clams from Arisaig served with these gorgeously cooked diced vegetables with chorizo oil and lemon confit. This was so moreish and I can’t even describe how good it was! It was creamy yet light and delicate but so flavoursome, so yummy!

Obviously we had a load of other food but those were my highlights. The service was something we’d never experienced before either, an extremely knowledgeable sommelier presented each wine with a brief description of each without over pushing it or interrupting our meal. Each meal was perfectly timed and we were left to enjoy, and digest our food before the next course (I love it when you’re not rushed).

This experience was well worth the money and I don’t know how I am going to eat anywhere else now! I think Castle Terrace will be the next place on our list as Kitchin had a hand in starting up the restaurant. The Kitchin’s ability to present beautiful Scottish produce so perfectly and seasonally and in such an exciting way was inspirational and the experience was truly a pleasure. Here are some sneaky photos I took whilst we were there, just to make you all jealous!