Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: Cold Brew T Bottle From Whittard

We may be in the middle of September but the days are still warm and mostly sunny, at least they are where I am and a long cold drink still provides welcome refreshment. I was recently offered the opportunity to review some new products for Whittard of Chelsea and after browsing their website, the Cold Brew T Bottle caught my eye so I asked if I could try it along with a couple of  loose leaf green teas. I received a packet of the dragon well long jing and a packet of the mango & bergamot flavoured green tea.

You may have noticed a trend this summer for cold brew coffee and tea. The idea is that by infusing ground coffee or loose leaf tea for several hours in cold water in the fridge, the flavour is released without any of the bitterness that can occur when tea and coffee is brewed with hot water. For their Cold Brew T bottle, Whittard recommend using 5-7 heaped tsp (15g) of tea and filling the bottle up with cold water to the 750ml mark. The bottle has 3 small discreet markings designating 400ml, 600ml and 750ml. The tea can then be left in the fridge with the lid on to infuse for 3-6 hours before being poured through the built in strainer. This is a fine mesh concealed within the silicone lid and ensures that no tea leaves end up in your glass

Whittard recommend savouring the chilled tea with food in a similar way to enjoying a good wine. I usually drink water with my lunch but since I've had this bottle, I've been enjoying cold brewed green tea instead on days when I'm working at home. The flavour is more delicate than when brewed with hot water and I've found that even if the tea is left to brew for longer than 6 hours there is no bitterness. The dragon well long jing is particularly delicate and has a pretty pale yellow-green colour with the characteristic green tea flavour. The mango and bergamot tea has a fantastic fragrance, it kind of reminds me of sherbet somehow and I love the taste of it. It's fruity and green but not too sweet and it works very well as a cold drink, I can't actually imagine drinking this tea hot, I don't think it would work for me like that. The mango and bergamot tea is a bolder green colour and when infusing in the bottle, the mixed flower petals (rose, cornflower and sunflower) look very pretty swirling about with the tea leaves.

Overall I think the Cold Brew T bottle is a great product and I'm looking forward to trying it out with some of the other loose leaf teas I have in my cupboard whilst the weather is still lovely and warm. I do however think that the amount of tea suggested to use for a full bottle is a lot and I have had equally good results by using slightly less tea (4-5 tsp) and brewing for longer.

Thank you to Whittard of Chelsea for sending me these products to review, as always all opinions are my own and I was not paid for this post. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Balsamic roasted strawberry and white chocolate layer cake

In the middle of the summer I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the Lakeland press show where I got to see a whole new range of products. One of the things that really caught my eye was the Wilton Easy Layer Cake Pan Set which Lakeland very kindly offered to let me try out for a review. In the box you get 5 tins, each one measuring 6 inches across. On the front of the box is a picture of a rainbow cake which my boyfriend really wanted me to make but I fancied trying something a bit different. There are recipes provided with the cake tins but as Wilton is an American company, all of the recipes use cup measures which I find difficult to visualise and I didn't want go to the effort of looking up the conversions. I took a guess at the quantity of cake batter needed to make this cake just by eyeballing the cake tins next to my usual 8 inch sandwich tins which I know take a 4 egg mixture. The result was slightly thinner layers than I anticipated but when the cake is stacked up I think it's fine and you still get plenty of cake with every slice. I think a 5 egg mixture would work just as well here to give deeper layers.

Update (16/9/14): Lakeland have just told me that there are some recipes in metric for these tins here so do take a look for inspiration.

After pondering a few different ideas for my first 5 layer cake, I ended up settling on strawberries and white chocolate. I read a lot about roasted strawberries on various blogs last year and decided to give it a go as a filling for the cake. I chose a recipe where the strawberries are roasted in balsamic vinegar because I didn't want them to be too sweet as I thought that with the sweet vanilla cake and the white chocolate buttercream, there needed to be a slight contrast in flavours.

Ingredients - serves 8

For the cake:
225g softened butter
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk

For the roasted strawberries: original recipe here
450g hulled fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending on size
1.5 tbsp vanilla sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the white chocolate buttercream:
125g butter
250g icing sugar
150g white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk
Red or pink food colouring - optional

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour the cake tins. 
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla and milk. Fold in the flour and then divide the batter evenly between the cake tins. I weighed the batter in each tin to get even sized layers and put approximately 170g batter in each tin. 
  • Transfer the cake tins into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. 
  • In a medium sized roasting dish, combine the strawberries, sugar and balsamic. 
  • Leave the oven on after removing the cakes and roast the strawberries for about 45 minutes or until reduced in size and the balsamic/strawberry juice is slightly syrupy. Remove the strawberries from the liquid with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on a plate. 
  • Next make the buttercream, first of all melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then leave to cool. Beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the icing sugar, vanilla extract, milk and food colouring (if using), then beat until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat thoroughly until combined. 
  • To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on a plate and top with a layer of buttercream, you can be quite generous with it, followed by a layer of strawberries. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and spread a thick layer of buttercream on the final layer. 
  • Don't throw away the balsamic strawberry syrup, it's lovely drizzled over a some plain yoghurt or a scoop of ice cream. If you were feeling really indulgent then you could serve this cake with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of the syrup.  

The verdict on the cake from my boyfriend was that it was really good and his second favourite cake of the year after his birthday cake. My verdict on the cake tins is that they are very easy to use, the lip on the edge makes it easy to grab them from the oven with thick gloves on. To prepare them for baking I just greased them with butter and dusted with a little flour and the cakes came out perfectly with no sticking. I only have one shelf in my oven (the joys of renting and not being able to choose your own appliances) so I had to bake in batches but I easily managed to get 3 of the tins on one shelf at once. It's my Dad's birthday this weekend and after seeing a photo of this cake, he's requested a 5 layer cake so I'll be heading off to Dorset on Friday with my 5 layer tins to bake him something tasty. I think he's hoping for a coffee and walnut cake so look out for photos on my Instagram profile this weekend to see what I make. 

Disclaimer: I was sent these cake tins for review and was not expected to provide a positive review, all opinions are my own. I was not paid for this post. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Spicy mixed grain falafels with a beetroot & carrot salad

One of the great things about being a food blogger is being given the opportunity to try out new food products. I was recently sent a selection of organic quick cook grains and pulses from Clearspring along with some tamari soy sauce and a bottle of Omeg-a-day which is a flaxseed oil blend. I've enjoyed adding the pulses to curries and serving them with the rice trio, it makes a lovely change from my usual basmati. After being very impressed with the pulses I decided I wanted to try and make something a bit different with the mixed grains and pulses and came up with the idea for these falafels.

These falafels are made with the quick cook grains and pulses which includes Emmer wheat, barley, yellow split lentils, green split peas, red split lentils and KAMUT Khorosan wheat. When combined with the chickpeas in the falafels this provides a good source of protein and fibre for a healthy lunch or even a late summer picnic. The chilli powder does give these quite a kick so feel free to use less or leave it out if you prefer a milder flavour. I've baked the falafels instead of frying them, partly because it's healthier and partly because I burnt myself quite badly last time I attempted shallow frying so it's put me off for a while.

Ingredients - makes 25 falafels

1 tin of chickpeas or 100g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked
100g quick cook grains and pulses, cooked following packet instructions until tender
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black onion seeds
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Beetroot & carrot salad
4 medium raw beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp Omeg-a-day oil or cold pressed rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

  • Start by frying the onion, garlic, cumin seeds and onion seeds in a little oil over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes until softened and the cumin is very fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • Place all of the remaining falafel ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure everything is incorporated, you may need to add a small splash of water to help everything come together. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Take small walnut sized pieces of the mixture and shape into balls and place on the tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden then serve warm in pitta breads with the beetroot and carrot salad. 
  • For the beetroot and carrot salad mix the oil, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper in a salad shaker and shake to emulsify. Put the beetroot and carrot in a bowl, pour over the dressing and toss well to coat in the dressing. 
  • The salad will keep in the fridge for a few days if you don't eat it all with the falafels. 

To make the salad dressing I used the new herb mincer and little salad dressing shaker from OXO Good Grips. I liked the pouring spout on the salad shaker and the handy measurement markings. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of the herb mincer as I'm so used to chopping with a large chef's knife. But it seemed to do a good job of mincing the herbs, one thing I would suggest it to wash it as soon as you can after using. It gets a bit fiddly to clean otherwise if the herbs get stuck to the blades.

For more recipe inspiration using the mixed grains and pulses from Clearspring check out these recipes:
Vegan shepherdess pie by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Quick Cook Organic Grains & Pulses Burger by Fuss Free Flavours for Clearspring
Seven Vegetable One Pot by Utterly Scrummy

Disclaimer: I was sent products from Clearspring and OXO for review, all opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.