Saturday 30 March 2013

A Return to Delicieux, Bolton

Delicieux, Bolton
We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning today, so decided to pop to Delicieux in Bolton for a spot of breakfast. I say a spot, we knew full well that breakfast meant a frying pan packed with goodies! Delicieux have a wonderful full length window on the far wall which is lovely when the sun is pouring in. 
Delicieux Bolton - Breakfast
The breakfast was wonderful as usual, but the exciting bit happened afterwards! One of the things I love most about Delicieux is Debbie's passion for making it the best it can be. She is always coming up with new ideas and the venue is constantly evolving because of it.

Today she asked us if we would like to try something a bit new. Of course we did! She produced a pretty plate of pastel chocolate discs. They are still evolving, so may change slightly over the coming weeks. They are bloody brilliant! There are over forty flavours to choose from, but we tried candy floss, banana, toffee, orange, peanut butter and pistachio. They can be eaten separately, or stacked to make flavour combinations. Paddy is keen to try a strawberry and peanut one together to make peanut butter and jelly! My absolute favourite was the candy floss!
Delicieux Bolton - Discs
Delicieux Discs - clockwise...
Candy floss, banana, toffee, orange, peanut butter and pistachio
Think macarons. Rethink them into something a little more exciting. I haven't seen anything like these before and can't wait to see what they evolve into! 

The chocolates are made by Lucy Waide over at Ickles Fancy Fudge.

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Dishoom - Covent Garden, London

Dishoom - Covent Garden, London
I have been to Dishoom three times. The first time was about two years ago when we had the most amazing breakfast ever. We vowed to return the next time we were in London and told all our friends to go. They did, and it was indeed amazing for them too. Then I fell out with them because on my long awaited return in November 2012, their tandoor was broken and we were served a cold substitute. It was not their day.
Dishoom - Covent Garden, London
I am writing this post to defend their honour. I ranted, raved and down right sulked when I couldn't get my bacon naan roll fix. I even vowed never to go there ever again. When I had stopped being an idiot I remembered why I loved it so much in the first place, and decided to go back when we went to London for my birthday last week.

As I walked through their doors I found all was forgiven. Welcomed in from the cold with a hot cup of tea, followed by that famous bacon naan roll... A big old naan wrapped around bacon, cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and coriander. My mouth is watering just writing about it. I cannot imagine a better breakfast in the whole of London. Not so filling that you can't fit in any other food sight seeing (scoffing), but substantial enough to fill a hole. At a bargainous £3.70, you will be hard pushed to find a better value breakfast!
Dishoom - Bacon Naan Roll
Dishoom, we are friends once again...

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Goodies from Clarks

Clarks Maple Syrups
I love trying new products. I'd say it's one of my favourite pastimes! This week the lovely folk at Clark's sent me some of their maple syrup and honey products to try. I had already used their original maple syrup in my apple bundt cake, but had never tried their other variations or honey before.

I received bottles of the following:

  • Clark's Canadian No. 1 (medium) Maple Syrup
  • Clark's Vanilla Maple Syrup
  • Clark's Original Maple Syrup
  • Clark's Orange Blossom Honey
  • Clark's Acacia Honey
  • Clark's Clear Blossom Honey
  • Clark's Lavender Honey

Clarks Maple Syrup and Honey
I tried them all, one after the other to get an idea of how they compared to each other. Whilst the flavours are subtly different, I can already see how much difference they would make in baking. The lavender honey would go beautifully in my honey nut bundt cake! Seeing them all side by side also makes you appreciate the variation of colours too.

So here's what I thought...

Clark's Canadian No. 1 (medium) Maple Syrup
This is considered the 'real maple syrup'. It's produced in the Quebec region of Canada and is made by collecting tree sap and boiling it down into syrup. Did you know that is takes about 4kg of tree sap to make 100g of pure maple syrup? Fact of the day!

This syrup has that distinct maple taste which is sweet without being overpowering. This is perfect over pancakes, porridge, bacon or gammon. I wouldn't waste this fine grade in baking as some of its lovely richness may be lost. It's a drizzler!
Bundt Cakes
Above: Honey Nut Bundt
Below: British Apples Bundt

Clark's Vanilla Maple Syrup
This is a blend of maple syrup, natural vanilla and Mediterranean carob fruit. Carob is a low glycemic product with around 25% less calories than sugar. This is perfect for baking because of the added vanilla. It tastes naturally sweeter than the Canadian No.1, but feels a little lighter.

Clark's Original Maple Syrup
Clark's Original is the best selling Maple Syrup in the UK. Again, this is blended with fruit carob meaning its a little lighter and more affordable but still tastes great! Again, perfect for baking or as a sugar substitute in drinks. This is the one I use in my apple cake as it's not overpowering. Apple and maple are a match made in heaven!

Clark's Orange Blossom Honey
This is a pale honey with a slight citrus tang. It's made from hives situated in orange groves around the world and definitely has a different taste to standard honey. It's a great all rounder and could be used in baking, on desserts or as a sugar substitute in drinks. Ideal hot toddy material!

Clark's Acacia Honey
This is very pale in colour and mild in taste, perfect for anyone who is not keen on strong honey. As above but without the citrus flavour, this is a little more floral. Perfect in tea.

Clark's Clear Blossom Honey
Although this is called clear, it's darker than the two above. This is ever so slightly stronger so would be nice on toast, drizzled over desserts or used in a marinade.

Clark's Lavender Honey
This was my favourite by far. Subtle floral notes, gathered by bees buzzing around the lavender fields of Spain. This would be nice on croissants or folded into cream and smothered between a Victoria sponge. Beautiful!

Thanks to Clarks for opening my eyes to the many types of sugary treats available in a squeezy bottle. I see them being used in many cakes over the Spring months!

Disclaimer: I was sent these products fee of charge, but under no obligation to write about them or give a positive review. I genuinely loved every one!

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Friday 29 March 2013

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake
This is a true story. Mary Berry once told me that 'life is too short to make your own marzipan'. Not my words. They are the words of the queen of baking. Heard by my very own ears.

Most people either love it or hate it; the marmite of the baking world. I don't really mind it either way as long as it's used wisely. For example, my friend Heather made a cracking stollen at Christmas and it went perfectly with the festive flavours. I hate it when it's stuck between a thick layer of sugar-paste and a slab of boozy fruit cake - yak!

A few weeks ago, my friends at Renshaw set me the task of sprucing up the traditional Easter Simnel cake. They even sent me some goodies! What lovely cakey people they are. You all know what I was thinking. I also wanted to keep some of the tradition whilst making it my very own. I find Simnel cake a bit 'pah' and dry (yes, that is a very technical baking term). Luminous marzipan on a rock like fruit cake. Nah. I used the Renshaw golden marzipan from my pack. It doesn't glow in the dark or anything. 

So the cake alchemy began! I set myself a brief. 
  1. Moisture
  2. Flavour
  3. Tradition 
In that order. I'm going to be honest with you. I had a sniff of an idea and ran with it. I was basically making it up as I threw the ingredients into the mixer! I came up with a recipe that used the same ingredients as the traditional cake, but I wanted to change the texture. The addition of yogurt will always make a moist cake. I also reduced the amount of fruit, but feel free to add another 50g if you're really keen.
Renshaw Marzipan
The finished result was a perfectly moist cake with that signature bundt sugar crust. The marzipan wasn't sticky, and moulded over my star bundt an absolute treat! Very easy to use and yummy to boot. 

So this is how to make my version of an Easter Simnel cake...

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g plain flour
  • 200g of mixed dried fruit (whatever you fancy!)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml lemon yogurt
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 egg for glazing
  • Pack of Renshaw marzipan 

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch)
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. On a slow speed add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, spice, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Mix the dried fruit into the flour mix and stir. A good coating of flour will help to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix (yes, the fruit will get 'caught' in the sieve!) followed by half of the yogurt. Repeat until all the flour and yogurt is used up.
  9. Stir in the dried fruit, which will now be covered in flour.
  10. Give a quick mix on a medium speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mix into a greased and floured tin. Push into any nooks and crannies! 
  12. Tip: don't worry too much about the fruit touching the tin. It won't stick and most will be covered later anyway.
  13. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and it is shrinking from the tin slightly. 
  14. Leave it to cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn out.
  15. Allow to cool fully.

For the covering:
  1. Melt a little apricot jam in the microwave until it's runny and leave to one side.
  2. Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar.
  3. Roll out your marzipan to about 5mm thick.
  4. Put your bundt tin on top of the rolled out marzipan and cut round it - you may have to be artistic where the handles are (if there are any).
  5. The hole will be too small, so make it a little bigger with a biscuit cutter. 
  6. Cover the top of the bundt with the melted apricot jam. This is your glue!
  7. Gently lift the marzipan and place centrally over the bundt cake. 
  8. Tease it into place so it picks up the contours of the cake. 
  9. With the remaining marzipan make 11 little balls and place them on top of the cake. These are said to represent the 11 apostles.
  10. Confession: I only did 10 as my OCD is much stronger than my faith.
  11. Cover the tips of the marzipan with a little beaten egg.
  12. Place under a preheated grill until the marzipan just starts to brown.
  13. Pop a garish coloured plastic chick on it and you are all ready for Easter! 
Where to buy this stuff:
Cake Release

Renshaw Marzipan

Disclaimer: Renshaw sent me a box of goodies to try, but I was under no obligation to use them or say I liked them. I did though. They were ace!

BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

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Tea Time TreatsCalendar Cakes

Thursday 28 March 2013

Flavourly Boxes

A few weeks ago the lovely folk at Flavourly asked if I would like to sample one of their boxes. A bit like the veg packs you can order online, Flavourly send a box of gourmet goodies to your desired address every month. You can even order one offs if you prefer. They will then pick a selection of goods for you to try. Not really knowing what to expect, I signed up and waited for the box to arrive...
Flavourly - How it works
How it all works...
As luck would have it, my goodie box arrived after a particularly heinous day at work and so was hugely appreciated! It comes compactly wrapped in a little cardboard box with purple print. It was reassuringly heavy, so I knew all sorts of amazing items lay inside...
Flavourly - How it works
There was a geniune 'eek!' of excitement when I tore through the tissue paper to find what lay beneath. My box contained:
  • Cambrook Caramelised Blueberry Bar
  • Cambrook Sesame Peanuts
  • Trotters Uncle Allan's Chutney
  • Cochrane Cottage Fat Fre Lime Drizzle
  • The Bath Pig Original Chorizo 
  • Corn Again Chilli and Lime Popcorn
Flavourly - March Box
I'm not going to lie to you. I started to devour bits from the box the same night. I have to confess this now as some of you may have seen the giddy pictures I posted to Facebook. Busted.
Flavourly - March Box
So here's what I thought...

Cambrook Caramelised Almond and Blueberry Bar
I hate blueberries. So then, why did this look so appealing? This little bar is made up of almonds covered in a sticky purple fruit glaze. It's not too sweet either. Nice little energy booster and tasty too!

Cambrook Sesame Peanuts
By far my favourite item in this pack. These are out of this world! Imagine the toffee coating on popcorn, but a hundred times better. These peanuts are drenched in caramel and then scattered with sesame seeds. I think my husband got to try one. Just one. I adored them.

Trotters Uncle Allan's Chutney
This is made from apples, onions, dates and sultanas left to marinade in malt vinegar, so it's more like a pickle than your traditional cooked chutney. This is perfect with thick cut off the bone ham on a fresh bloomer. Lovely!

Cochrane Cottage Fat Free Lime Drizzle
This nifty little item can be drizzled over salads, chicken or fish; or tasted off a spoon straight out of the box as I did first time round. It's sweet yet tangy! Perfect for barbecue season. If we ever see it.

The Bath Pig Original Chorizo 
This smells amazing! It's really firm and packed with flavour. The smoked paprika perfumes the room as soon as it's open. If you like a spicy sausage, this is the one for you! It has a smooth texture and a cheeky hint of ginger. Very nice indeed.

Corn Again Chilli and Lime Popcorn
Another show stopper. This was so good I took some into work for my friends to try. Who would have thought that chilli and lime worked so well on popcorn? We particularly liked the fact that some pieces were really rather mild, whilst others blew your head off! Amazing.
Flavourly - Cambrook Peanuts
Cambrook Sesame Peanuts
If you want to order a Flavourly box, you can make a one off payment whenever you fancy, there's the popular three month option or you can subscribe for six months. My friend Kev bought his the second he saw my pictures on Twitter! If you're new to Flavourly, use the promotional code GIFT10 to get £10 off your first order. This makes it cheaper to give them a try too.

I loved this little box of tricks because it made me try products that I may never have had if left to my own devices. There was nothing in the box that I didn't enjoy, and a few others which I will hunt down in the future. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a Flavourly box free of charge to review, however the thoughts are all my own. Greedy pig. 

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A peek at Littlewoods...
This week I was asked by to have a look at their Spring/Summer collection for 2013. I wouldn't have normally thought of looking at online catalogues for inspiration, but I found some lovely little picks!

Despite the fact we are still dealing with unwanted snow drifts here in Bolton, it was nice looking through their range of picnic-ware and outside furniture, as well as some cute little items I found in their bakeware section. I have to keep reminding myself it's Spring, and Summer will arrive at some point!

They have a fantastic range of bakeware, smoothie makers and mixers, kitchen storage and pretty cookware. I particularly like the pink kitchen storage (below) and these amazing mini Le Creuset dishes! Perfect for a mini summer berry crumble...
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post

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Wednesday 27 March 2013

Another trip to Ladurée in Harrods, London

Ladurée in Harrods, London
In November we went to Ladurée for the first time. I loved it so much I vowed to go every time we visit London. The raspberry dessert I had is very much in the memory bank as one of my all time favourites. I secretly hoped that they wouldn't have it again so I would be forced to try something new...

It was there... That beautiful raspberry dessert. Perfection. Yet I swerved away from it and forced myself to try something new. It's a tough gig, but someone has to do it. Turns out this dessert was just as good as its predecessor. Wow wee. It was like a smooth meringue box filled with mango and strawberry, topped with a white chocolate disc. Right up my street!
Ladurée in Harrods, London
My husband is a chocolate fan, and asked me to pick something for him from the display. I opted for an Élysées; lots of layers of rich chocolate, mousse, ganache and wafer. It was enough to finish off mere mortals, but he ate the lot. Warrior-like behaviour.

The teas are something special at Ladurée. My husband had Thé aux Amandes, which is subtly scented with almonds. I had a tea flavoured with violet leaves, which was pale and delicate.

If you're in London, pop in. It's a little Parisian paradise in the heart of the city, and no need to book.

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Monday 25 March 2013

The Cafe at Cafe Royal, London

The Cafe at Cafe Royal, London
I love chance encounters. Stumbling across something that you would have been gutted to miss. Well, the other day I was sat in Fortnum and Mason eating strudel - as you do. Being the geek that I am, I had checked in on Foursquare. Within seconds, my friend Marcus at Nordicware had tweeted me a picture of the window display at the five star Cafe Royal Hotel on Regent Street.

I was a three minute walk from somewhere that had bundts in their window. Just bundts. Argh! Well, off we trot. Imagine how excited I was when I got there! I was conscious of looking like some crazy northern girl taking pictures like tourism was going out of fashion. Luckily for me I was greeted by a lovely red haired lady from Stockport who was equally excited that I knew all about bundts!
The Cafe at Cafe Royal, London
I snapped away like a nutter... Oohing and ahhhing like someone who should live on a ward. The dining room is large, open and full of marble. It feels quite formal when you first walk in, but it's friendly and they have cake. That's a winning combination.

There are a number of different types of bundt on offer at Cafe Royal. They have marble type cakes, mini bundts and the traditional European Yeasted Gugelhupf with rum soaked fruit. Lovely lady from Stockport told me that the head pastry chef (Simon Jenkins) makes all the cakes on site and that the yeasted bundts are his signature dish.

The drinks are pretty good too. I'd already drunk two pots of tea that morning, so I decided to go crazy and have a hot chocolate. It came in a pretty special glass! This nifty design meant that you could handle the glass without burning your hands. My husband had an Americano, which was his third of the day. I'm surprised he wasn't wired!

It would have been rude not to sample a bundt whilst I was there, so I decided on a mini lemon one. This wasn't overly sweet and was drenched in lemon syrup. It may have been small but it packed a punch! I couldn't leave without sampling one of the yeasted variety, but we were booked into the Hawksmoor in under an hour's time. There was a very real possibility I may develop gout. So... I got a piece to takeaway for the journey home.
The Cafe at Cafe Royal, London
These breaded creations are totally different to bundt cakes. They are like a normal loaf but have added fruit and obviously come in much prettier shapes! It's was very nice, but I would have liked a bit more spice in it.
The Cafe at Cafe Royal, London
The Cafe at Cafe Royal is aiming to revive the European tradition of cafe culture. They have only been open for three weeks, and I think they have something a little different to everyone else in the capital. As it develops, I'd like to see a little more informality in the dining room. So much marble can make it feel a little uninviting, but once you're in it's very comfortable.

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Sunday 24 March 2013

The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester

The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
We first became aware of Simon Rogan's cooking about five years ago, not long after we started our quest for Michelin starred food. We were four folk in our mid-twenties who regularly brought the average age of the dining room down by at least twenty years. The Lake District bug had started with Sharrow Bay in December 2007, and quickly progressed to L'Enclume a few months later.

The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, ManchesterWe were wowed by dishes like razor role reversal  and also forged what would be a long term friendship with an elderly ginger cat named Ben. We fell in love with L'Enclume and all agreed that Simon was clearly some sort of culinary witch. We have returned several times, and lost count how many people we have recommended it to since.

Then came the rumour. Was Simon Rogan really taking over The French at the Midland Hotel in Manchester? When it was announced, I probably had more questions than answers. Would it be a carbon copy of our beloved L'Enclume? Would it be a watered down version? Would it work when Simon was no longer there? We had to go. We waited until my birthday weekend (like we needed an excuse!) to give it a whirl. We all tried not to read too may reviews before going, but I have to admit I may have stolen a glance at a few pictures...

On arrival we saw some familiar faces from L'Enclume, which is always nice. It's even nicer when they recognise you too! We had a lovely chat with Karmila and Rebecca who have both been at L'Enclume for some time. Rebecca told us that the staff at The French are now a mix of originals, some from Cartmel and new recruits.

There was a choice between a six or ten course tasting menu, which obviously left us with only one. It's the only way to give a fair review... After glancing at the menu, it was clear that there are some very definite nods towards home, albeit slightly different. As always, there are 'extra' courses thrown in, which always end up being some of my favourites. Perhaps it's the element of surprise!

We started with a nice glass of pink bubbles, which was quickly followed by several appetisers. There were seaweed 'sticks' served in caramelised onion and fennel powder, black pudding mousse, mussels, dock leaf pudding with mayonaise and salt and vinegar crumbs, and a parsnip crisp with smoked eel and bacon with onion seeds. These were phenomenal! That parsnip crisp was an absolute taste sensation. This is being promptly added to my 'what could you just eat?' list.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
The tasting menu started with razor clams, egg yolk, celeriac and sea herbs. This is a nod to the razor role reversal we first had in 2008 at L'Enclume. I had seen on the previous night that Simon had created a similar dish using the original 'shell' idea. Similar, but not the same. Saying that, I'd love to have that dish again... Just once.

Next was the artichoke broth with truffle dumplings, bacon, radish and hazelnut. This was a meaty liquid served with a range of textures as well as flavours. The nuts were sweet and crunchy whilst the dumplings were delicately flavoured and soft. I hate it when the taste of truffle is overpowering. This was in perfect balance.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
The next course was one of my favourites of the evening; ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed, kohlrabi and sunflower seeds. Similar to a venison dish we ate at L'Enclume, this is possibly a masterpiece.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
By now we were ready for carbs. You can always judge a nice restaurant by its bread. If it's rubbish, it shows little attention to detail. This was wonderful. We were given a selection of wholemeal with ale, chestnut and french baguette. They came served with whipped butter with a sprinkling of sea salt. We snaffled the lot.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
The fresh crab with caramelised cabbage, horseradish, chicken skin with crow garlic was a huge hit around the table. This was promptly followed by an 'early spring offering' of vegetables, herbs and flowers with lovage salt. This was a little bit special. It reminded me of a scaled down satio tempestas (Frantzen/Lindeberg), which we ate exactly a year ago.

The fish course was a sole fillet with onions, smoked scallops, parsley and leeks. I'm not the hugest fan of fish, but this was sweet and subtle.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
The meat courses started with hogget, sweetbreads, wild garlic and sheep's milk. We were dying by this point, but I still managed the vast majority! The hogget was just fantastic. I cursed myself for feeling quite so full! By the point that the veal came I was suffering from a minor dose of actual death. I then gave a second curse, this time to the veal for being so damn good.
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
It's funny how I always manage to get my second wind when dessert arrives... I think there is clearly a scientific reason for this. When I have eaten so much savoury food, I need that burst of sugar to perk me back up. Plus, like a cow I am sure I have more than one stomach. It's the only way I can explain how I am able to eat a huge pudding after a massive meal. I have been known to insist that I am never eating ever again, only to scoff a dessert moments later. Either that, or I'm just a greedy pig.

Anyway, onto the desserts. The first was a perfectly pink sweet cheese with rhubarb, toasted oats and mulled cider. I loved this! It almost made me forget that it was about minus ten outside. Think Spring... The final couse was one of my favourite desserts of 2013. I know we are only in March, but believe me, I've already consumed quite a few. This was pear, meadowsweet and rye, buttermilk and linseeds. I was also given a rich chocolate crisp because it was my birthday!
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
Just when we thought it was all over, a bottle of dark liquid appeared. Sarsaparilla! This came with a soft wafer filled with ice cream. It was all kinds of special! We all loved this. Sugar levels sorted, we felt much better!
The French by Simon Rogan at the Midland Hotel, Manchester
I hadn't really known what to expect from The French, but it blew my socks off. I thought it might have been a bit 'fine dining for the masses' and worried that some of that special flair of Simon's may have been lost in favour of something safe. No no no. Nor is it a carbon copy of L'Enclume. They are sisters, not twins. We all agreed that it would be nice to see some signature Manchester dishes on the menu in the coming months.

L'Enclume is situated in the middle of some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, and with that comes food that can be foraged or locally produced; notably dishes like the LA11 venison. We wondered where the ingredients will come from in the heart of a city? Saying that, Vicki tells me that she has heard rumours of a roof top herb garden!

I hope that The French is as strong when Simon goes back to Cartmel, and continues to evolve without his guidance in the kitchen. We'll have to make a return visit to judge that one. In the mean time, you should really go, because they are producing some stunning food. Simon may be there at the moment, but his team created a fantastic meal last night.

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Square Meal

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Keema Shepherd's Pie

Keema Shepherd's Pie
Two great things happened this week. I got sent two wonderful little parcels (well three actually, but I'll save that one for another day...) The lovely folk at Booths invited me to be part of Booth's Cheers India and gave me a goodie bag to boot, then the makers of Mermaid Cookware sent me a wonderful pie dish to try out. Are you thinking what I am...? Spicy pie alert!

Booths Cheers GoodiesThis is a dish I have made several times before, but wanted to test the quality of the ingredients in the Spice Tailor kits I was sent. This is a new range of quick 'make at home' curries from Indian cookery goddess Anjum Anand. To test the simplicity, I actually made this when I got in from work tonight. I've also had time to eat some and write this post... not bad for a mere mortal!

The recipe is really easy and tastes delicious! The smell wafting round our house at the moment is unbelievable! This is a bit of a twist on a family classic, and isn't too spicy either. The Spice Tailor kits are a far cry from jarred sauces; they come with separate bits and bobs for different times in the cooking process. I can genuinely say hand on heart that they are of excellent quality, which shows in your finished product. People will think you have cooked from scratch. I won't tell if you don't!

I popped the lot in my heavy duty 23cm pie dish which was perfect for the job. This is big enough to serve about three hungry people or two greedy so-and-sos. The dish didn't warp in the oven and was cool enough to handle without the fear of third degree burns a couple of minutes after coming out from under the grill. Always handy when you're likely to forget 'that's hot' like I often do... I'm definitely buying more from this nifty range.

So if you fancy having a go at this spicy bad boy, here's what to do:


  • 500g lean lamb mince
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 1 Spice Tailor pack in your preferred flavour - I used original tikka masala
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml cold water
  • 100g frozen or fresh garden peas
  • 450g cooked carrot and swede mash - either home made or shop bought
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds


  1. Heat a large casserole type pan on the hob to a medium heat.
  2. Dry fry your lamb mince until only just browned. Drain and put to one side.
  3. Using the little bit of oil in the pan, add the chopped onion and cook on a low heat for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the spice mix from the Spice Tailor kit and cook until the onions are soft.
  5. Add the mince and the concentrated cooking sauce from the Spice Tailor pack. Cook on a medium heat for around 3 minutes before adding the main sauce (also from the pack).
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and 100ml of cold water.
  7. TIP: if you don't have a Spice Tailor kit, 4 tbsp of good quality balti paste plus and extra 200ml of water will work too.
  8. Simmer on a low heat until all the visible 'wet' liquid has thickened. You're looking for a rich sauce covering the mince.
  9. Stir in the peas about 2 minutes before the mix looks ready.
  10. Meanwhile mix 1 tsp of coriander seeds with the mash, ready for topping the pie.
  11. Pour into an ovenproof dish and top with the mash. You don't want a really thick layer - just a smattering!
  12. Cook on gas 4/180 C for 15 minutes.
  13. I finish mine off under the grill to get nice crispy bits of mash.

I like this on its own, but it's also nice served with mini naan breads.

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Sunday 17 March 2013

Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump Up the Jam!

Bolton Clandestine Cake Club
I've been mega excited about this meet up since I announced the theme. I love preserves. They are so versatile in baking, so I knew we would get some right corkers. Not a plain Victoria sponge in sight.

This month's club was held at Delicieux in Bolton. Debbie and the team are the newest eatery on the block, and after a fantastic breakfast back in January I knew this one would be popular with the club members. We were booked into our own private room upstairs, so I was giddy as a little kipper!

As I walked up the stairs, there was a lovely hand drawn banner welcoming us to the venue. Debbie's daughter had decorated the room for us - it was just beautiful. Polka dots, bunting, mismatched china and shabby chic accessories. I have considered moving in. She even created cake 'chill out areas' in the corners out of scatter cushions. The light bounced through the skylights onto the cakes and chilled out music played in the background. It was all kinds of ace.
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club at Delicieux
We had lots of new members on Saturday, so the spacious venue was perfect for mingling and chatting. Tea was served from pretty pastel tea pots and the hot chocolate was made of real melted chocolate! Corinne's been under the weather, so it was just the tonic.
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club at Delicieux
Although lemon was a clear favourite amongst the bakers, they also provided preserve based cakes in a wonderful array of flavours, including peanut, rhubarb, banana, plum, apple, pineapple, lime, orange, fig, apricot, raspberry and strawberry. Our cake table consisted of:

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Bundt 
  • Lime Curd Sponge
  • Fig and Apricot Jam Cake
  • Rhubarb and Custard Layer Cake
  • Lemon Layer Cake
  • Chocolate Orange Cake with Orange and Whiskey Marmalade
  • Chocolate and Jam Cake with White Chocolate Icing
  • Pineapple Jam Cake
  • Rhurbarb and Custard Hexagon
  • Banana Cake with Chocolate Drizzle
  • 'Jam Butty'
  • Luscious Lemon Curd Cake
  • Plum, Apple and Cinnamon Jam Cake
  • Lemon Jammy Dodger
  • Raspberry Rice Pudding Cake
  • Sally's Sticky Marmalade Cake

Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump up the Jam!
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump up the Jam!
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump up the Jam!
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump up the Jam!
Bolton Clandestine Cake Club - Pump up the Jam!
I gave them a challenge, and they delivered! Some even made their own jam. The cakes produced on Saturday have to be some of my favourites so far. Our 'troughs' were pretty impressive, and there was still cake left over. We suffered for our cause; many went home with terrible cake-ache, a couple already had the sugar induced headache, and nearly all of us took takeaway goodies from downstairs for later. We needed savoury you see... it's all about the sweet/savoury balance. Science. 
Take away from Delicieux
Thanks to everyone who came, and especially to the staff at Delicieux for going to so much effort when they were really busy! My husband and I enjoyed our Cumberland sausage scotch egg, Fidgit pie and Natas later that night! We may have had a little cake too...

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