Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Halloween Cocktails

Halloween Cocktails
So when thebar.com challenged me to create a cake recipe based on one of their cocktails, I jumped at the chance. I thrive on a challenge, and absolutely love Halloween, so this combo was perfect. Some of my favourite recipes recently have been my take on classic drinks, and they always seem to go down well with my tame tribe of cake testers.
Halloween Cocktails
They gave me a list to pick from, all of which sounded right up my street to be honest, but I changed my mind on the last minute from a Zombie bundt to a Smirnoff Ghoul's Goblet. The ingredients in this drink lend themselves perfectly to a delicious cake. Vodka and ginger with a citrus twist are my idea of cocktail perfection. 

If you want to make the drink version, I've added a link to the recipe above, however if you would rather stuff your face with cake, follow this instead... (my personal recommendation would be to do both). This recipe is the right size for a standard bundt tin, or two 2lb loaf tins, however I urge you to find one of the spooky options out there like my 3D skull tin! These are available from Nordicware. 

    Halloween Cocktails
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 100g of vegetable fat 
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 200ml Schweppes ginger ale
  • 50ml Smirnoff vodka
  • 5 tbsp shredless marmalade
  • Jelly worms, snakes or laces to decorate - the choice is yours!

  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch - or see options explained above).
  2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat and then cream in the sugar in stages.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting.
  4. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
  5. Add the zests and the vodka to the ginger ale, and give it a good stir.
  6. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently...
  7. Tip: at this stage it will look like death. Breathe... it will all magically work when whizzed up.
  8. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. It will no longer look like a zombie threw it up.
  9. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and give it a good whack on the worktop. Because the cake has fizzy stuff in, it will hold a lot of air bubbles. Too many may mean the tin design is lost.
  10. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about 2 hours. Just turn it after about an hour and a half.
  11. It should be shrinking from the sides and a skewer should come out clean.
  12. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn it out. 
  13. Allow to cool fully before glazing. 
  14. To make the glaze, warm the marmalade in the microwave until runny - keep an eye on it though, and do not touch it! It'll be hotter than hell... Brush it over your cake for a lovely orange flavoured glaze.
  15. Surround your creation with as many jelly worms, fake bats, top hats or spiders as you see fit. 

Disclaimer: This post was written in conjunction with thebar.com.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review: VonShef Stand Mixer

I was recently approached by Domu.co.uk to review one of their VonShef stand mixers. It's like they had hard my recent conversations... A friend and I were discussing the astronomical cost of stand mixers after her sister-in-law's bit the dust, prematurely. Just like its competitors, this one is available in a range of different colours (11 to be precise), and follows the same format of multiple attachments, variable speeds and a whole lot of power. So I put it through its paces.
VonChef Stand Mixer
Before we start, here are some mixer facts for you:
    VonChef Stand Mixer
  • 1200W motor and planetary action. 
  • 6 Speed Settings and Pulse Function
  • Chrome dough hook - for mixing dough and heavier cake mixes.
  • Silicone flat scraper beater - for whisking egg whites, creaming butter and sugar, mixing lighter cake mixes and ensuring ingredients don’t stick to the bowl.
  • Chrome balloon whisk - for cream, egg whites and light batters.
  • Splash guard which fits around the bowl.
  • 5.5l stainless steel mixing bowl (2kg max. mixture preparation and 5 litre liquid capacity). 
  • Silicone lid and a dust cover with storage pocket to keep the stand mixer protected when it’s not in use.
  • Non-slip rubber feet to stop it moving when in use.
The dial and locking mechanism feel sturdy, and I particularly liked the fact that you can either pick a speed setting by number, or by selecting 'flour', 'egg' or 'P' for pulse. These illuminate when selected, and show which beaters may be used. I loved the little suckers on the base of the mixer, which prevent any unwanted movement, therefore making it safer too. The only obvious difference in build quality is the outer casing is made from heavy plastic rather than metal, but so is the Kenwood Titanium Chef. In terms of beating, it's not too loud, and has enough power to beat you butter and sugar into a fluffy mix in minutes.

A little while back, I did a comparison of the two most popular mixers amongst my baking pals (see the full article here). I've done a quick comparison for you below. As much as I love my pink Kitchenaid (incidentally, the VonShef is available in baby pink too), I have to say that I would think twice about spending £400 on another, when there are such cost effective alternatives. 

Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer
  • Power 300W
  • Capacity 4.83 litres
  • Dimensions 35.3 x 22.1 x 35.8
  • Guarantee 5 years
  • Price £399.99 RRP
Kenwood Titanium Chef
  • Power 1400W
  • Capacity 4.6 litres
  • Dimensions 29.7 x 22.7 x 40.0
  • Guarantee 5 years
  • Price £649.99 RRP
VonChef Stand Mixer
  • Power 1200W
  • Capacity 5.5 litres
  • Dimensions 39 x 35 x 19 cm
  • Guarantee 2 years
  • Price £114.99 RRP
I'd definitely recommend this mixer based on my own experience. It's about time there was a more cost effective, yet stylish alternative.

See the mixer on the Domu website here.

Disclaimer: I was sent a mixer to review. I was not asked to write a positive review - Domu were interested in my honest feedback. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester

Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester

I've been a bit of a fan of Scene since I first visited back in May last year. Lee and I had been shopping and ordered so much food that it would have easily fed four. Last December we went en masse for our work Christmas Do, and once again, ate so much food that we had to call it a night at about 10pm, declaring ourselves too full for cocktails.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to go and try out their new superfoods menu, which was created by executive chef Sudesh Singh and celebrity Nutritional Biochemist, Jeannette Jackson. Both were on hand to explain the menu, and how it had been developed. These new offerings promise 'a special focus on superfoods and healthy eating to nourish the mind, body and soul'. Let's see what they've got then.

First up was the obligatory poppadoms and dabba. I'm not sure how they fit into the superfood category, but they were very welcome all the same. We were starved.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Carrot and coriander soup: This soup was gorgeous, but gee whiz, it blew our heads off. All memories of the chilly walk from Deansgate train station were blown away after a mouth full of this. The general consensus was that everyone enjoyed it, but perhaps a little less heat next time. We ate it all though...
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Chicken 65, Lucknowi chicken wing and paneer pakora: A nice little selection of starters, my favourite being the paneer, although again, I'm not sure how much of a superfood fried cheese is. 
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Potato and mint chaat: Loved this dish. Just look at it, I couldn't wait to dig in. Lots of protein in the chickpeas, bursting with colour and a subtle minty flavour in the potato chaat.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Mirchi pakora: One of my favourites. A green pepper filled with 'Scene's special stuffing'. I have no idea what this was, I just know that I liked it.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Spiced grilled chicken, and kale & beetroot with spiced orange: This chicken was fantastic. Really nice depth of flavour and still very moist. Luckily for me, it seems someone forgot to add the beetroot (mortal enemy) to the salad. Bonus!
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Chicken biryani: My absolute favourite dish. I love a good biryani. Mix this with the daal and scoop it up with that soft nan bread. Heaven.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Nan: So simple, yet often got so wrong. This was perfect, soft and fluffy, and warm from the tandoor.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
Daal Punjabi: Very popular on our table, this one. My mouth is watering remembering how well this went with the two dishes above. I could eat this every day. At least once.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
It was quite a long evening, and not a natural way to try the dishes to be honest, however, we enjoyed everything we ate. There's quite some competition in Manchester now in the realms of Indian food, so it's interesting that Scene are trying to appeal to a different market. Healthy isn't a word that I would have associated with Indian street food before, so I'll be interested to see how this one pans out. I can imagine it would be more popular with people ordering tiffin for lunch, rather than those wanting a sit down meal, but it's great to have a healthy option available too.

Disclaimer: This was a press evening run by Scene. We were given samples of the food from the new menu, and were asked for our honest opinion throughout the evening. 
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